Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala of Nigeria becomes first female chief of WTO

Okonjo- Iweala has become the first woman and African to hold the position at WTO.

Created On: Feb 16, 2021 12:39 ISTModified On: Feb 16, 2021 12:39 IST
WTO Chief

The former Finance Minister of Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala has become the next Chief of the World Trade Organisation after US President Joe Biden’s administration gave her its complete support on February 5, 2021. She will hold the position from March 1, 2021, to August 31, 2025.

Okonjo- Iweala has become the first woman and African to hold the position at WTO. The support by Biden’s administration is another change of direction from Trump’s administration, which had earlier obstructed the selection procedure by supporting South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee, in opposition to many other countries.

However, Yoo Myung-hee decided to pull out on February 5 after consulting with the new US administration, which also had been her main supporter, leaving the ay open for the selection of Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala.

Current US administration backs Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala:

The United States Trade Representative defended its support of the Nigerian candidate by mentioning that she has a wealth of knowledge in international diplomacy and economics as well as has a proven experience in managing a large international organization.

The representative added that the Biden administration looks forward to working with the new Director-General of the World Trade Organisation for finding paths forward to achieve the required substantive and procedural reform of the WTO.

Biden administration breaks deadlock over selection:

The World Trade Organisation traditionally chooses its leader through consensus among 164 member states, but the selection procedure was brought to a deadlock in October 2020 by the refusal of the Trump administration to back down over its chosen candidate.

The former President had also threatened to leave the organization because of the ongoing trade disputes with China as well as the constant attacks from the US which crippled the functionality of the dispute settlement appeal system of WTO.

The spokesperson of WTO had informed that the next General-Council meeting can be called at short notice since the previous one in October 2020 was suspended because of the deadlock.

The move by the current US administration will also allow WTO to finally replace Roberto Azevedo who had stepped down in August 2020.

About Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala:

The 66 years old Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala is trained as a development economist. She acquired her degrees from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has worked previously as the Managing Director of World Bank.

In her home country Nigeria, she was the first female Foreign Minister as well as held the position of Finance Minister twice.

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