Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is set to become the first woman and first African to lead the World Trade Organization. The path was cleared for Okonjo-Iweala, who hails from Nigeria, after South Korean candidate Yoo Myung-hee dropped out of the race for the position on Friday (Feb. 5).
The former U.S. administration had tried to block Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment, with Trump saying the organization “must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field.”
However, Okonjo-Iweala was widely supported by other WTO members, including the European Union, China, Japan and Australia. An economist and former finance minister of Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala also served as a development economist and then managing director at the World Bank for 25 years. She was also on the board of Gavi, which is working to distribute the Coronavirus vaccine.
Speaking with CNN in August, Okonjo-Iweala said she believed free trade would play a significant role in global economic recovery from the pandemic. She previously said she was “immensely humbled” to be nominated for the WTO leader.
“The WTO needs a leader at this time,” she told the outlet. “It needs a fresh look, a fresh face, an outsider; someone with the capability to implement reforms and to work with members to make sure the WTO comes out of the partial paralysis that it’s in.”
On Thursday (Feb. 4), President Biden also announced that “diplomacy is back at the center” of U.S. foreign policy.
“We must start with diplomacy rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law and treating every person with dignity,” he added. “Though many of these values have come under intense pressure in recent years, even pushed to the brink in the last few weeks, the American people are going to emerge from this moment more determined and better equipped to unite the world to defend democracy because we have fought for it ourselves.”