Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is appointed the seventh Director-General of the World Trade Organization on Monday, making her the first Women and first African to hold the post. Her renewable term will expire on 31 August 2025.
General Council Chair David Walker and other members and co-facilitators for the selection process extended their heartfelt congratulations stating," Dr. Ngozi, on behalf of all members I wish to sincerely thank you for your graciousness in these exceptional months, and for your patience. We look forward to collaborating closely with you, Dr. Ngozi, and I am certain that all members will work with you constructively during your tenure as Director-General to shape the future of this organization."
Dr. Okonjo is the former Finance Minister of Nigeria and the World Bank-economist. She said a key priority for her would be to work with members to quickly address the economic and health consequences brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I am honored to have been selected by WTO members as WTO Director-General," said Dr. Okonjo-Iweala. "A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again. Our organization faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile, and better adapted to the realities of today."
The General Council decision follows months of uncertainty that arose when the United States initially refused to join the consensus around Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and threw its support behind Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea. But following Ms. Yoo's decision on 5 February to withdraw her candidacy, the administration of newly elected US President Joseph R. Biden Jr. dropped the US objection and announced instead that Washington extends its "strong support" to the candidacy of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala.
The process for selecting a new Director-General was triggered on 14 May when former Director-General Mr. Roberto Azevêdo informed WTO members he would be stepping down from his post one year before the expiry of his mandate. He subsequently left office on 31 August.