Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala To Be Confirmed As WTO Boss
Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala appears set to be confirmed on Monday as the first woman and first African leader of the beleaguered World Trade Organization, an institution that is almost paralysed and desperately in need of a kick-start.
The WTO has called a special general council meeting at which it is expected that the former Nigerian finance minister and veteran of the World Bank, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will be formally selected as the new Director-General of the Global Trade Body.
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Shortly after the only other remaining contender, South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, had pulled out, US President Joe Biden swung strongly behind her candidacy.
“I look forward to finalising the process,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said after securing support from the Biden administration on February 6.
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The organisation is also keen to conclude the drawn-out process, since Brazilian career diplomat Roberto Azevedo stepped down last August, a year ahead of schedule, having been leaderless.
It was expected that the process of selecting one of the eight candidates to succeed him would end by November, but the administration of former US President Donald Trump blocked the agreement to appoint Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
‘Candidate for reform’
The 66-year-old will not attend a virtual session at WTO headquarters in Geneva on Monday and it is not known when she will take up her duties.
The special session of the 164-member organisation begins at 1400 GMT and Okonjo-Iweala is scheduled to hold an online press conference two hours later.
Through consensus-finding, the WTO picks its leaders, so even though she is the only candidate still in the race with US, EU and African backing, there is always the chance of throwing a spanner into the works.
An organisation mired in multiple crises and struggling to help Member States navigate the severe global economic slump caused by the pandemic of the coronavirus will take over.
The first woman and first African to become Director-General of the WTO will be Okonjo-Iweala.
During the race, Okonjo-Iweala argued that she was best positioned among the eight candidates for the post to guide the WTO through crises.
‘I am a candidate for reform,’ she insisted.
Among other things, she has warned that the pandemic has spurred increasing protectionism and nationalism and insists that barriers need to be lowered in order to help the world recover.
The WTO was weighed down by stalled trade talks and struggled to curb trade tensions between the United States and China even before Covid-19 battered the global economy.
Under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, the WTO also faced relentless attacks from Washington. Trump brought the WTO’s dispute settlement appeal system to a grinding halt in late 2019, among other things.
Okonjo-Iweala has stated that its priorities include the re-introduction into the WTO Appellate Body of long-blocked trade talks on fishery subsidies across the finish line and breathing life.
Okonjo-Iweala is seen as a pioneer in her Western African homeland two times as Nigeria’s finance minister (2003-2006 and 2011-2015) and her first female foreign minister in a two-month stint in 2006.
As a trade minister or negotiator, she has brushed off claims that she lacks experience, insisting that what is required to lead the WTO is not technical skills, but “boldness, courage.”
She portrayed herself as a champion against the rampant corruption of Nigeria, claiming that her own mother was even abducted because of her attempts to tackle the scourge.
But her critics claim that, while in power, she should have done more to tackle it.
Okonjo-Iweala, a development economist with degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, also had a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, eventually becoming its number two.
She is on the board of directors of Twitter and chairs Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
# Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala To Be Confirmed As WTO Boss .
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