Okonjo-Iweala Emerges WTO Director-General

A former Nigerian minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has emerged as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

A statement released by the WTO on Monday, announced the confirmation of Okonjo-Iweala as the first female and African to become the organisation’s Director-General.

Her recent endorsement by the United States of America and the withdrawal of the South Korean Trade Minister and candidate, Yoo Myung-hee, sealed the deal for Okonjo-Iweala.

Yoo Myung-hee withdrew her bid to lead the WTO leaving Okonjo-Iweala as the only remaining candidate for the job.

Yoo decided after discussions with the U.S. and other major nations, and took various issues into account including the need to revitalize the multilateral organization, according to a statement from Korea’s trade ministry on Friday.

“There was no consensus,” Yoo said. “So we needed enough time for in-depth consultations with important members, including the U.S.”

The withdrawal came after dozens of former U.S. government officials urged President Joe Biden to endorse Okonjo-Iweala after the Trump administration blocked her selection in 2020, making the U.S. and Korea the only holdouts favouring Yoo. That opposition was enough to halt the selection process because WTO decisions are made on the basis of a consensus of its members.

By quitting the race, Yoo cleared Okonjo-Iweala’s path to secure the leadership of the Geneva-based institution.

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