Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala Gets U.S. Green light for WTO Post

By HICGI News Agency

Updated at 18:14 GMT on Monday 08th February 21

Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is now poised for the top job as the director-general of the World Trade Organization. She will make history as the first woman to hold the post, and the first African. She was among five contenders that include Kenya’s former foreign minister Amina Mohamed, Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri of Saudi Arabia, and Liam Fox, a UK politician. The new director-general will replace Brazilian Roberto de Azevedo, who has served since 2013. Candidates were whittled down to two – Okonjo-Iweala and Myung-Hee. With the South Korean candidate’s withdrawal, the door was left open for Okonjo-Iweala, but her appointment was blocked by the Trump administration.

Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Ms Ngozi has expressed gratitude to the US for endorsing her as the next director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Biden administration had declared support for Okonjo-Iweala on Friday, after over three months of the process being on hold as a result of the opposition of the Trump administration which preferred South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee for the job.

But Myung-hee stepped down on Friday, paving way for the Nigerian who will make history as the first African to lead the WTO.

In a tweet on Friday, Okonjo-Iweala commended her opponent for the “hard fought race”.

“Grateful for the expression of support from the US today for DG @WTO. Congratulations to Madam Yoo of Rep. Korea for a hard fought campaign. Thank You President Muhammadu Buhari @MBuhari &all Nigerians for your unflinching support. Thank you friends. Love to my family. Glory to God,” she tweeted.

In a statement, the office of the US Trade Representative gave the reason why the Biden administration endorsed Okonjo-Iweala.

“The United States takes note of today’s decision by the Republic of Korea’s Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee to withdraw her candidacy for Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).”

“The Biden-Harris Administration is pleased to express its strong support for the candidacy of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-lweala as the next Director General of the WTO.

“Dr. Okonjo-Iweala brings a wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy from her 25 years with the World Bank and two terms as Nigerian Finance Minister.

“She is widely respected for her effective leadership and has proven experience managing a large international organization with a diverse membership.

“It is particularly important to underscore that two highly qualified women made it to the final round of consideration for the position of WTO Director General — the first time that any woman has made it to this stage in the history of the institution,” the statement read.

Earlier Opposition to Okonjo-Iweala as WTO Chief Stalls Process by Trump administration.

At first, news of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment as the World Trade Organisation’s director-general after a hotly contested race was hailed as an African first. Local media reported that the United States failed to endorse the former Nigerian finance minister for the top job as U.S. raised last-minute objections to the process by which the new director general was being picked. Ideally, the WTO chooses its director general by consensus, with all 164 members having to approve a candidate.

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A spokesperson for the WTO said Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy would be put to a meeting of the body’s governing general council on November 9. Meanwhile, the Nigerian government said it was working with relevant stakeholders, to secure U.S. support for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

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