Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala named WTO Director General after key endorsement from Biden administration

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian-born economist, was appointed Monday as Director General of the World Trade Organization. This makes her the first woman and the first African to hold the position. Her term will begin on March 1, 2021, and extend through 2025.

Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment to the position comes with a key endorsement from the Biden administration.

Under the Trump administration, the United States had previously refused to join the consensus in support of Okonjo-Iweala, blocking her appointment to Director General.

An outspoken critic of the WTO, President Trump instead backed the appointment of  South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee for the position.

Biden’s decision to support Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy for the position comes in light of his promises to take a more cooperative and diplomatic approach to international relations than the Trump administration’s “America First” policies.

President Joe Biden salutes as he disembarks Marine One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, prior to boarding Air Force One to begin his flight to New Castle County Airport in New Castle, Delaware. (Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe) 
President Joe Biden salutes as he disembarks Marine One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, prior to boarding Air Force One to begin his flight to New Castle County Airport in New Castle, Delaware. (Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe)

“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 after heading the nine-month long selection process.

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

Acknowledging the economic challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused,  Okonjo-Iweala continued on, “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,” the newly appointed Director General said.

Noah Pitcher is a global politics correspondent for Today News Africa covering the U.S. government, United Nations, African Union, and other actors involved in international developments, political controversies, and humanitarian issues.

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