WTO DG: I look forward to finalising process, says Okonjo-Iweala

Following the withdrawal of her only rival and the support from the United States, a former Nigerian Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said she is looking forward to finalising the process that will see her emerge as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

Okonjo-Iweala is poised to be the first woman and the first African to occupy the position.

The WTO had in October 2020 announced Okonjo-Iweala and South Korea’s Trade Minister, Yoo Myung-hee as the remaining two out of an initial eight contenders for the job.

But the selection process has been stalled since November after a WTO selection panel recommended Okonjo-Iweala as chief but the US administration of former President Donald Trump blocked her candidacy and backed Myung-hee instead.

On Friday, Myung-hee withdrew her name after months of diplomatic pressure to bow out, and the US President Joe Biden’s administration threw its support behind Okonjo-Iweala.

The twin developments ended months of uncertainty over the leadership of the global trade body, and cleared the way for WTO members to conclude a consensus-based process and confirm Okonjo-Iweala as the next WTO DG.

“I look forward to finalising the process of @WTO DG. My gratitude to HE @CyrilRamaphosa, all African Heads of State, the AUC Chair. Special thanks to ECOWAS Heads of State for outstanding support,” Okonjo-Iweala said on her Twitter handle on Saturday.

She also thanked the European Union as well as all officials and leaders of WTO members, among others.

The Geneva-based watchdog has gone without a director-general since Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo quit a year early in August and his replacement must contend with a COVID-induced recession, US-China tensions and rising protectionism.

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