Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Becomes First Woman To Lead World Trade Organization

Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was elected this Monday as general director of the World Trade Organization (WTO), for which she will become the first woman to lead this body, confirmed this in a statement.

Okonjo-Iweala, born in 1954, is also the first African leader to preside over the organization, led in the past seven years by Brazilian Roberto Azevedo.

The decision was made by consensus of the 164 members of the WTO in the General Council held this Monday, and the African will officially assume her position on March 1, for a term of four years renewable for another four.

Eight candidates presented themselves in the middle of last year as candidates to succeed Azevedo, of which two women made the final cut: Okonjo-Iweala herself and South Korean Yoo Myung-hee, who however withdrew from the list at the beginning of this month, given the lack of support.

The Nigerian candidate had already been proposed in October 2020 as general director of the body, but at that time the US delegation was against and in favor of the South Korean candidate, so it was decided to postpone the election process.

Okonjo-Iweala was the first woman Finance Minister of her country (a position she held twice, from 2003 to 2006 and from 2011 to 2015), also the first to hold the Foreign Affairs portfolio, although only for three months, in 2006 .

At the international level, she has held positions of responsibility in different entities, including that of managing director of the World Bank and that of president of the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, a position that she currently holds independently.

His predecessor at the WTO, Roberto Azevedo, left his post a year before his term ended to become a director of the multinational PepsiCo.

Okonjo-Iweala assumes the leadership of an organization that has gone through years of crisis due to the strategy of the United States, during the administration of President Donald Trump, to paralyze the appointment of judges to its Appellate Body, the main body of resolution of WTO disputes.

In addition, the agency, which in 2020 celebrated a quarter of a century as the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), has not achieved progress in negotiating new international trade regulation mechanisms for more than a decade, due to the paralysis of the Doha Round, launched in 2001.


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