OPEC congratulates Okonjo-Iweala on appointment — WTO


Despite COVID-19 and challenges to multilateral trade system, China is fully confident in Okonjo-Iweala serving as the director-general, and hopes the WTO, under her leadership, will resume its normal functions as soon as possible and play a greater role in anti-pandemic cooperation and economic recovery.

When she takes office on 1 March, Dr Okonjo-Iweala will become the first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General.

"Dr Okonjo-Iweala has promised that under her leadership it will not be business as usual for the WTO, and we are excited and confident that she has the skills necessary to make good on this promise", said Charge d'Affaires David Bisbee in remarks sent to Reuters by the USA diplomatic mission in Geneva. "They want to bring the WTO back to (its) goal", she told Reuters.

Okonjo-Iweala is the first African official and the first woman to hold the job.

She studied development economics at Harvard after experiencing civil war in Nigeria as a teenager. An economist, she previously served as Nigeria's finance minister and as managing director of the World Bank.

He underlined that she had promised it would "not be business as usual" at the WTO under her direction.

"I think they should do something different", she said. "And that is me", she said on Monday. 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. She also holds dual citizenship in the US and Nigeria.

South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, the last rival standing, pulled out on February 5 as it became clear that new US President Joe Biden was swinging behind Okonjo-Iweala.

"I'm not daunted. I see a way forward", she said.

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Raised by academics, the mother-of-four earned a reputation for hard work and modesty amid the pomp of Nigeria's governing class, acquaintances say.

She has portrayed herself as a champion against Nigeria's rampant corruption - saying her own mother was even kidnapped over her attempts to tackle the scourge.

"People recognise that this is not someone who is going to tolerate nonsense", her son Uzodinma Iweala, a writer, told Reuters.

She also expressed confidence that her priorities were aligned with Washington's.

After withstanding a veto of her candidacy by the now-departed Trump administration, Okonjo-Iweala takes the helm of the Geneva-based WTO at a precarious time for the world economy and just as the organisation itself is mired in a state of dysfunction. The pandemic and its economic fallout have highlighted the interdependence of countries, the importance of multilateralism and the need to strengthen collaboration to achieve fair and balanced trade agreements that provide opportunities for all WTO members, particularly for the least developed countries and small island states.

She is on the Twitter board of directors and chaired Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

High on the to-do list will also be fisheries subsidies, the subject of the WTO's main multilateral talks that missed a deadline to conclude by end-2020.

The EU will publish a plan for a WTO reform on 18 February.