NIGERIA’S OKONJO IWEALA TO BE NAMED WTO DIRECTOR GENERAL TODAY

Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is expected to be named the director-general of World Trade Organisation Monday, months after the key ambassadors of the trade organisation recommended her for the job.

Okonjo-Iweala will be the first African and first woman to lead the organisation.

She could have been installed as the boss of WTO late 2020 but the then American president Donald Trump threw its weight behind South Korea Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee.

Yoo pulled out of the race to lead the organisation last week and the Joe Biden administration endorsed the 66-year-old former Nigerian finance minister, dismantling the only obstacle in her way.

“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,” US Trade Representative said in a statement on Friday.

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

In her reaction to the US endorsement, – the only obstacle in her path – Okonjo-Iweala said she was “grateful”. She thanked Yoo Myung-hee for running a “hard fought campaign,” and the Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari and her countrymen for their “unflinching support”.

The WTO has called a special general council meeting at which the former Nigerian finance minister and World Bank veteran is expected to be formally selected as the global trade body’s new director-general.

“I look forward to finalising the process,” Okonjo-Iweala said on February 6 after securing the Biden administration’s support.

The organisation is also eager to conclude the drawn-out process, having been leaderless since Brazilian career diplomat Roberto Azevedo stepped down last August, a year ahead of schedule.

The process of picking one of eight candidates to succeed him had been expected to wrap up by November, but the administration of former US president Donald Trump blocked the consensus to appoint Okonjo-Iweala.

Okonjo-Iweala has said her priorities include getting long-blocked trade talks on fishery subsidies across the finish line and breathing life back into WTO’s Appellate Body.

Twice Nigeria’s finance minister (2003-2006 and 2011-2015) and its first female foreign minister in a two-month stint in 2006, Okonjo-Iweala is seen as a trailblazer in her west African homeland.

She has brushed off claims she lacks experience as a trade minister or negotiator, insisting that what is needed to lead the WTO is not technical skills but “boldness, courage.”

Additional reports by AFP