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Ngozi Okonjo Iweala World Trade Organization Wto Director General© Laurence Agron Dreamstime

WTO Appoints New Director General

Feb. 16, 2021
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will assume head of the trade organization March 1.

The World Trade Organization has appointed a new leader. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria will lead the organization in charge of handling international trade and end its roughly six-month stint without a director-general.

Okonjo-Iweala will be the WTO’s seventh director-general, as well as the first woman and first African to take the role. A graduate of Harvard and MIT, she served as Nigeria’s Finance Minister between 2003-2006 and 2011-2015 and as its Foreign Minister in 2006. She also worked at the World Bank for 25 years as a development economist and rose to its second-highest position.

In a statement after being appointed, Okonjo-Iweala said she was “honored” to be selected and that a newly invigorated WTO would be necessary for global economies to recover after 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,” she said. “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.”

According to a biography of Okonjo-Iweala on the WTO’s website, she is “a firm believer in the power of trade to lift developing countries out of poverty and assist them to achieve robust economic growth and sustainable development.”

The WTO had previously been helmed by Roberto Azevedo of Brazil until he stepped down in August 2020. After winnowing down a field of candidates, the decision for the next director-general was blocked by President Trump, who preferred South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee for the post. Yoo withdrew her consideration for the post February 5 after President Biden signaled “strong support” for Okonjo-Iweala.

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