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February 26, 2021

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Okonjo-Iweala announces ‘priority’ after historic emergence as WTO chief

3 min read

The former Nigerian Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has spoken about her plan for the World Trade Organization, after she on Monday emerged the first female Director-General of the global trade body.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala was confirmed DG of the trade body during a meeting of the WTO.

The United States government had last week announced its endorsement of Mrs Okonjo-Iweala for the top job.

It became clear earlier on Friday that Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, a former l World Bank executive, would likely clinch the coveted post after her final challenger to the position, South Korean Trade Minister and candidate, Yoo Myung-hee, announced her withdrawal.

When she takes office on March 1, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala will become the first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General. Her term, renewable, will expire on August 31, 2025.

“This is a very significant moment for the WTO. On behalf of the General Council, I extend our warmest congratulations to Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her appointment as the WTO’s next Director-General and formally welcome her to this General Council meeting,” said General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand who, together with co-facilitators Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and Harald Aspelund (Iceland) led the nine-month DG selection process.

“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,” he added, according to a recording of the meeting release by the WTO.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala 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 honoured to have been selected by WTO members as WTO Director-General,” said Mrs 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.”

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