UPDATED: Okonjo-Iweala appointed as WTO DG; gets EU support

Okonjo-Iweala appointed as WTO DG

UPDATED: Okonjo-Iweala appointed as WTO DG; gets EU support


The former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been appointed as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Okonjo-Iweala, whose tenure begins March 1, is the first woman and African to hold the position.

The WTO stated this in a tweet on Monday, saying, “Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from Nigeria is appointed as the next WTO Director-General. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala makes history as the first woman and the first African to lead the WTO. Her term starts on the 1st of March 2021.

“WTO members took the decision to appoint @NOIweala at a special meeting of the General Council, following a selection process that included eight candidates from around the world #WTODG.”

The former Minister had, a few days ago, received the backing of the administration of US President Joe Biden for the role.

The US Trade Representative in a statement cited her “wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy” and said she had “proven experience managing a large international organization.”

Okonjo-Iweala was challenged by South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee who later withdrew from the race for the position.

EU pledges support

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has welcomed the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

Expressing delight at the news of Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment, the President of the EU, Ursula von der Leyen, revealed that Europe is fully behind her.

“This is a historic moment for the entire world. I’m so glad to see a woman from Africa at the head of the @WTO. Europe is fully behind you. We support the reform of the WTO and will help you protect the rules-based multilateral trading system,” she wrote on Twitter.

The Vice President of the EU, Valdis Dombrovskis, revealed that the Union looks forward to working closely with the new DG.

“Congrats @NOIweala on your ratification to become next @wto Director-General! The EU salutes your historic achievement as 1st female & 1st African to hold this position. We look forward to working closely with you to reform the WTO, making it fit for purpose for today’s world,” he tweeted.

The EU Commissioner for International Partnership, Jutta Urpilainen, assured the former Minister of the Union’s support as she leads the WTO.

“I’m convinced that you are the right person to lead the modernisation of the WTO, and I look forward to working with you. As you know, you can count on @EU_Commission support,” she tweeted.

Okonjo-Iweala herself reacted to the appointment, saying she looks forward to working with members of the WTO towards getting “the global economy going again.”

“I am honored to have been selected by WTO members as WTO Director-General,” she said.

“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.”