Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Monday resumed duty as the director general of the World Trade Organisation, weeks after her appointment was endorsed by the United States and approved by the trade organization.
Her appointment was
ratified on February 15.
“WTO members have just agreed to appoint Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next director-general,” the global trade body said in a statement.
Okonjo-Iweala is the first woman
and the first African to lead WTO.
But her appointment was almost scuppered by the former American president Donald Trump, whose administration preferred South Korea’s trade minister Yoo Myung-hee for the job.
Trump administration’s insistence on Minister Yoo delayed was in spite of Okonjo-Iweala’s endorsement by the key ambassadors of the WTO last October.
But her path to the WTO top job was cleared after Trump was defeated at the polls and the South Korean minister dropping her dream.
President Joe Biden subsequently endorsed the Nigerian for the position, with the US Trade Representative praising her “wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy”.
She is hitting the ground running, with her first day on the job in Geneva coinciding with the annual meeting of WTO’s General Council.
Delegates are expected to agree that the organisation’s next ministerial conference, which had been scheduled for last year but was postponed due to the pandemic, will be held in Geneva in December.
The question remains whether the new WTO chief, considered a strong-willed trailblazer, will be able to mould the organisation in her image before then.
While some observers voice hope that Okonjo-Iweala will inject much-needed energy, others stress she has little wiggle room to make dramatic change, given that WTO decisions are made by member states — and only when they can reach consensus.
One of her first tasks will be to nominate four new deputy directors to help recharge the organisation’s negotiating mechanisms.