The emergence of a former Nigerian minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as the first woman and African to hold the position of the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was greeted with pomp, commendation and assurance of support.
Okonjo-Iweala was appointed on Monday at a special meeting of the WTO General Council, following a selection process that included eight candidates from around the world.
A statement released by the WTO on Monday, announced the confirmation of Okonjo-Iweala as the first female and African to become the organisation’s Director-General.
Her recent endorsement by the United States of America and the withdrawal of the South Korean Trade Minister and candidate, Yoo Myung-hee, sealed the deal for Okonjo-Iweala.
The European Union welcomed the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.
Expressing delight at the news of Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment, the President of the EU, Ursula von der Leyen, revealed that Europe is fully behind her.
“This is a historic moment for the entire world. I’m so glad to see a woman from Africa at the head of the @WTO. Europe is fully behind you. We support the reform of the WTO and will help you protect the rules-based multilateral trading system,” she wrote on Twitter.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on Monday quoted the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), as congratulating Ngozi Okonja-Iweala on her election as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.
He quoted the President as saying that the development has brought joy and more honour to the country.
The statement read, “On behalf of the Federal Government and all Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari warmly felicitates with former Minister of Finance and Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her election as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, bringing joy and more honour to the country.
“As the Harvard-educated and renowned economist takes up another onerous task of service to the world and humanity, the President believes her track record of integrity, diligence and passion for development will continue to yield positive results and rewards to mankind.
“President Buhari affirms that Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who over the years set major records of economic reforms in Nigeria as Minister of Finance, and later Minister of Foreign Affairs, will excel in her new position and validate the global mandate of repositioning and strengthening the multilateral institution for the greater good of all.
“The President joins family, friends and colleagues in wishing Dr Okonjo-Iweala well in her new endeavour.”
Also celebrating the emergence of Okonjo Iweala as the Director-General of the WTO, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the minority caucus in the House of Representatives have congratulated Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her emergence as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.
Gbajabiamila, in a statement issued on Monday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, said Okonjo-Iweala’s unanimous confirmation by the General Council of the WTO to head the body is a testament to her years of experience in the financial sector both at home and abroad.
Recall that Yoo Myung-hee withdrew her bid to lead the WTO leaving Okonjo-Iweala as the only remaining candidate for the job.
Yoo decided after discussions with the U.S. and other major nations and took various issues into account including the need to revitalize the multilateral organization, according to a statement from Korea’s trade ministry on Friday.
“There was no consensus,” Yoo said. “So we needed enough time for in-depth consultations with important members, including the U.S.”
The withdrawal came after dozens of former U.S. government officials urged President Joe Biden to endorse Okonjo-Iweala after the Trump administration blocked her selection in 2020, making the U.S. and Korea the only holdouts favouring Yoo. That opposition was enough to halt the selection process because WTO decisions are made on the basis of a consensus of its members.
By quitting the race, Yoo cleared Okonjo-Iweala’s path to secure the leadership of the Geneva-based institution.