Saturday, August 13, 2022

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala makes history as first female African to lead WTO

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, has received more support to become the first ever woman and African to lead the World Trade Organization.

Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala officially became the new director-general of the World Trade Organization.

She made history by becoming the first woman and the first African to lead the Geneva-based global trade governing body.

Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo received a boost earlier this week when EU member states officially threw their weight behind them.

Okonjo-Iweala, 66, served as her country’s first female finance and foreign minister and has a 25-year career behind her as a development economist at the World Bank, eventually becoming its number two.

She is also on Twitter’s board of directors and is a special envoy for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 fight.

If Okonjo-Iweala wins, she would become the first African to lead the global trade body.

“Dr Iweala’s qualities and experience in managing multilateral issues, in trade facilitation and negotiation as well as brokering deals and agreements with high political stakes, put her in good standing,” Nigeria’s trade minister Mariam Katagum said following Thursday’s announcement.

Yoo, 53, is South Korea’s first female trade minister. She has enjoyed a career in trade diplomacy and foreign affairs in which she struck free trade agreements with China and the United States.

“Both of the women in the final round are remarkably well-qualified,” Rockwell said.

“This is something on which everyone has agreed. We’ve been impressed with them from the very beginning. They are people with long experience dealing with tricky issues.

“It’s clear that whichever woman assumes this job will have a very full plate from day one.”

Already before the COVID-19 crisis hit, the WTO was grappling with stalled trade talks.

The global trade body has also faced relentless attacks from Washington, which has crippled the WTO dispute settlement appeal system and threatened to leave the organization altogether.

“We do need a director-general, and the sooner she can take office, the better,” Rockwell said.

He insisted that the timetable for picking the next leader was not linked to the U.S. presidential election on November 3, and fears that the campaign for the White House might cripple the WTO leadership process have not materialized.

“I don’t think the domestic political situation of any country has really entered into this at all,” Rockwell said.

The WTO forecast on Tuesday that global trade, devastated by the coronavirus crisis, will shrink by less than previously expected this year at minus 9.2 percent, but the rebound in 2021 will also be much weaker than previously forecast at 7.2 percent.

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