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Okonjo-Iweala Confirmed as First Female World Trade Organisation DG

Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been selected by consensus to be the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

All members of the WTO’s top decision-making body, the General Council, on Monday agreed on her appointment in a virtual meeting.

Okonjo-Iweala, an economist, is the first woman to assume the post.

Her appointment as Director-General at a meeting of envoys from the 164 WTO member countries is considered a mere formality.

The previous U.S. administration of President Donald Trump had been an obstacle to the appointment process by opposing Okonjo-Iweala.

Trump’s successor Joe Biden last week threw his weight behind Okonjo-Iweala, who previously served as Nigeria’s finance and foreign minister, and as the Managing Director of the World Bank.

Okonjo-Iweala prevailed over several other candidates in the months-long WTO leadership race, including South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung Hee, her main rival.

Okonjo-Iweala is set to take the reins from Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, who left the WTO before the end of his term in August.

He joined U.S. beverage giant Pepsico as an executive thereafter.

The leadership change comes as the WTO is in its deepest crisis since it was founded in 1995.

The organisation is no longer able to settle trade disputes between countries, since the United States has stalled the appointment of Appeal Judges.

The Trump administration sought reforms of the WTO, without clearly spelling out its demands.

In addition, free trade talks have been stalled for years, and the WTO now also faces a global economic crisis.

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