Home / International News / World Trade Organisation Appoints First Female And African Head
World Trade Organisation Appoints First Female And African Head

World Trade Organisation Appoints First Female And African Head

GENEVA, Switzerland (Friday, February 19, 2021) — World Trade Organisation (WTO) member-countries made history, on Monday, when the General Council agreed, by consensus, to select Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of Nigeria, as the organization’s seventh Director-General.

When she takes office on March 1, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala will become the first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General. Her four-year, renewable term 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, Ambassador Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and Ambassador 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.

“I am honoured to have been selected by WTO members as WTO Director-General,” responded 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.”

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala added that 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.

The General Council’s decision followed months of uncertainty, which 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 Myung-hee’s decision, on February 5, to withdraw her candidacy, the newly-elected administration of US President, Joseph R. Biden, dropped its objection, and announced instead, that Washington extended its “strong support” to the candidacy of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala.

Ambassador Walker extended his thanks to all eight of the candidates, who participated in the selection process and, particularly, to Myung-hee, “for her ongoing commitment to, and support for, the multilateral trading system and for the WTO”.

The process for selecting a new Director-General was triggered last year, on May 14, when former Director-General, 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 August 31.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top