Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala poised for WTO Director-General role


After months of stalemate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala appears on the brink of taking over as the Director-General of the WTO (World Trade Organisation) as the process nears its end.

Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged the end of the long process through her official social media channels, this weekend. She will become the first African as well as the first female holder of the position, and will replace Roberto Azevêdo

I look forward to finalizing the process of WTO DG. My gratitude to HE Cyril Ramaphosa, all African Heads of State, the AUC Chair. Special thanks to ECOWAS Heads of State for outstanding support. I thank PressACP, Mia Amor Mottley, EU, all Officials & Leaders of WTO Members.

The withdrawal of the South Korean Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee appears to have made this a formality. Bloomberg reports that among the various issues she considered was the need to ‘revitalise the multilateral organisation’. 

“There was no consensus,” Yoo said. “So we needed enough time for in-depth consultations with important members, including the U.S.”

The Biden administration congratulated Yoo Myung-hee on her campaign, and used the opportunity to applaud the achievements of both candidates, as the World Trade Organisation looks set to welcome its first female Director-General.

“The U.S. respects her decision to withdraw her candidacy from the director-general race to help facilitate a consensus decision at the WTO.

“It is particularly important to underscore that two highly qualified women made it to the final round of consideration for the position of WTO DG -the first time that any woman has made it to this stage in the history of the institution."

Recognition of Myung-hee’s election run was followed by several leading US officials imploring President Biden to endorse Okonjo-Iweala. This resulted in the latest announcement from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, outlining their support for her candidacy, stating:

“She is widely respected for her effective leadership and has proven experience managing a large international organisation with a diverse membership.”

The success of both candidates in finding their way to this point will please those who wish to see diverse leadership on the global stage. For the former Nigerian finance minister, the backing from the U.S. will be especially pleasing after months of impasse caused by the Trump administration’s decision to block her appointment and push for a reopening of the race. It also moves the U.S. in line with the general consesus on the preferred candidate, as expressed by the organisation's members.

Making history is not new to Okonjo-Iweala. She is the former Nigerian finance minister, having first served under former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in 2003.

In taking the role, she became Nigeria’s first female finance minister and went on to serve a second term under Goodluck Jonathan. As far back as 2004, her policy of promoting monthly publications of states’ financial allocations from the federal government, won her support for increasing transparency between both state and local government.

This appears to be the latest victory in a long line of groundbreaking success.

Mayowa Ayodele


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