Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to be first Black woman lead at World Trade Organization

Biden/Harris said they're look forward to working with a new WTO Director-General

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, an economist and former finance minister of Nigeria, has become the first woman and the first African to lead the World Trade Organization. 

Okonjo-Iweala was tapped for the position after South Korea’s trade minister Yoo Myung-hee — whom the Trump administration supported — announced on Friday her decision to withdraw her bid to head the WTO. 

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In a statement, the US Trade Representative called Okonjo-Iweala a “wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy” and said she has “proven experience managing a large international organization”.

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NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 18: Former Minister of Finance of Nigeria Ngozi Okonjo Iweala speaks on September 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity)

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday offered its “strong support” to Okonjo-Iweala to lead WTO.

The statement from the US Trade Representative continued: “The Biden-Harris Administration is pleased to express its strong support for the candidacy of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala 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.

The letter added, “The United States stands ready to engage in the next phase of the WTO process for reaching a consensus decision on the WTO Director-General. The Biden-Harris Administration looks forward to working with a new WTO Director-General to find paths forward to achieve necessary substantive and procedural reform of the WTO.”

Okonjo-Iweala responded to the outpouring of support over her new gig on Twitter, writing: “Grateful for the expression of support from the US today.”

“It is particularly important to underscore that two highly qualified women made it to the final round of consideration for the position of W.T.O. director general — the first time that any woman has made it to this stage in the history of the institution,” said the statement from the US Trade Representative.

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Okonjo-Iweala told CNN in August that trade would be vital to recovery efforts from the coronavirus pandemic.

“The WTO needs a leader at this time. It needs a fresh look, a fresh face, an outsider, someone with the capability to implement reforms and to work with members to make sure the WTO comes out of the partial paralysis that it’s in,” she said.

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