First Woman and First African Chosen to Head World Trade Organization
Feb 16 2021
Her term is scheduled to start on March 1.
The Speaker, House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has congratulated Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on her emergence as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). On 28 October, General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand had informed members that based on consultations with all delegations Dr Okonjo-Iweala was best poised to attain consensus of the 164 WTO members and that she had the deepest and the broadest support among the membership.
The near-paralysed institution desperately needs a reboot - something Okonjo-Iweala immediately addressed after her coronation.
"Dr Okonjo-Iweala has promised that under her leadership it will not be business as usual for the WTO, and we are excited and confident that she has the skills necessary to make good on this promise".
"I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again".
She also expressed willingness to make the WTO stronger, adding that the organisation would adapt to realities of the day. She withdrew her candidacy earlier this month.
The organisation has been leaderless since Brazilian career diplomat Roberto Azevedo stepped down last August, a year ahead of schedule.
The dispute settlement body has been paralyzed since a year ago after the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump refused to approve the appointment of more judges.
"Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has always been engaged in poverty reduction of developing countries, global vaccine and healthcare causes".
"She brings stature, she brings experience, a network and a temperament of trying to get things done, which is quite a welcome lot in my view", former WTO chief Pascal Lamy told Reuters last week.
" At the World Bank, you fronted several initiatives that supported low-income countries, including raising nearly 50 billion dollars from donors in an aid campaign for the International Development Association".
The Nigerian, who boasted US, EU and African backing, celebrated her appointment with her sister, at her home outside Washington.
"As the Harvard-educated and renowned economist takes up another onerous task of service to the world and humanity, the President believes her track record of integrity, diligence, and passion for development will continue to yield positive results and rewards to mankind", the President stated. Dispute resolution is key because the WTO is the only place countries can come to have their trade differences settled, she said.
But unblocking the appointment is only the start in dealing with USA concerns about the WTO that date to the Obama administration.
European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen called it a "historic moment for the entire world", and pledged Europe's full backing for Okonjo-Iweala.
Okonjo-Iweala has also served as Nigeria's finance minister and helped to broker a deal in 2005 to cancel billions of dollars of Nigerian debt with the Paris Club of creditor nations.
" However, I know from your lengthy and successful career as a highly-respected economist, an global development expert who worked for 25 years at the World Bank, a diplomat and your two terms as Finance Minister in Nigeria that you are more than up to the task".