Sci-tech

Okonjo-Iweala emerges WTO Director-General -- first woman ever

Okonjo-Iweala emerges WTO Director-General -- first woman ever”

Mohammad noted that Okonjo-Iweala's candidacy received support from every geographical region and all categories of members recognised in the WTO provisions.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala was Nigeria's finance minister during the tenures of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.

With Mrs Okonjo-Iweala's emergence, the WTO now has its first female director-general in its 25-year history.

"The United States is eager to work with Dr. Okonjo-Iweala to ensure this institution lives up to its full potential as a body that promotes equitable economic growth through trade", USA diplomat David Bisbee told Monday's meeting.

"Global trade has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, support for the multilateral system needs to be bolstered and the WTO, under your leadership, will embark on a period of substantive and procedural reform. I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again", Okonjo-Iweala 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", she added.

Okonjo-Iweala said that while economic recovery was reliant on trade, solving public health challenges also required "good trade".

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The WTO had also faced relentless attacks from the Trump administration which, among other things, brought its dispute settlement appeal system to a grinding halt in late 2019. As a candidate she endorsed an ongoing an initiative among the US, EU and Japan aimed at developing new disciplines for industrial subsidies, state-owned enterprises and forced technology transfers. But at the decision-making meeting, the U.S. said the WTO is in dire need of reform and must be "led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field".

It became clear earlier on Friday that Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Bank executive, would likely clinch the coveted post after her final challenger to the position, South Korean Trade Minister and candidate, Yoo Myung-hee, announced her withdrawal. "She is widely respected for her effective leadership and has proven experience managing a large worldwide organization with a diverse membership".

Okonjo-Iweala, an economist whose background is in global development, rose to become managing director of the World Bank. Her dual USA citizenship means she's also the first American to hold the organisation's top job.

On behalf of the GC I extend our warmest congratulations to Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her appointment. However, the United States held up a procedural move that would have allowed for a consensus vote by backing her challenger. "That delegation was the United States".

The Geneva-based WTO has been leaderless since Brazilian career diplomat Roberto Azevedo stepped down last August, a year ahead of schedule.

The post of the top executive has been vacant since August 31 a year ago, when the former head of the organisation, Roberto Azevedo, left it before the end of his term. She is expected to join the WTO's Geneva lakeside headquarters within weeks where her portrait is set to be hung beside others of men, mostly white and from rich countries.



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