Monday, February 15, 2021 4:35 pm
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was today, 15 February, 2021, confirmed the new Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). That was after many months of suspense.
David Walker of New Zealand and General Council Chair said today:
“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.” He together with co-facilitators, Amb. Dacio Castillo (Honduras) and Amb. Harald Aspelund (Iceland) led the nine-month DG selection process.
He added: “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.”
Okonjo-Iweala whose tenure will start on 1 March responded:
“I am honoured to have been selected by WTO members as WTO Director-General. 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.
As published earlier on this platform today, Okonjo-Iweala, also the first woman to assume the post, is the only remaining candidate for the troubled organization in Geneva.
Her appointment as director general at a meeting of envoys from the 164 WTO member countries is considered a mere formality.
The previous U.S. administration of President Donald Trump had blocked the appointment process by opposing Okonjo-Iweala.
Trump’s successor Joe Biden last week threw his weight behind the woman who previously served as Nigerian finance and foreign minister, and as the managing director of the World Bank.
Okonjo-Iweala prevailed over several other candidates in the months-long WTO leadership race, including South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung Hee, her main rival.
Okonjo-Iweala is set to succeed the Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, who left the WTO before the end of his term in August.
He has joined U.S. beverage giant Pepsico as an executive.
The leadership change comes as the WTO is in its deepest crisis since it was founded in 1995.
The WTO is no longer able to settle trade disputes between countries as the United States has blocked the appointment of appeals judges.
The Trump administration sought reforms of the WTO, without clearly spelling out its demands.
In addition, free trade talks have been stalled for years, and the WTO now also faces a global economic crisis.(dpa/NAN)