December 7, 2023

WTO DG Race: Okonjo-Iweala secures Biden-Harris support

Alicia Nicholls

After several weeks of speculation over whether it would maintain the United States (US) objection to the selection of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Biden-Harris Administration this afternoon announced that it is in support of the world renowned development economist’s selection to the post.

In a statement released this evening on the website of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), it was noted that:

The Biden-Harris Administration is pleased to express its strong support for the candidacy of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next Director General of the WTO.  Dr. Okonjo-Iweala brings a wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy from her 25 years with the World Bank and two terms as Nigerian Finance Minister.  She is widely respected for her effective leadership and has proven experience managing a large international organization with a diverse membership.  

USTR Statement of February 5, 2021

Last year, after what seemed to be consensus around Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s selection, the US (then under the Trump Administration) objected to, and effectively blocked her appointment, citing her limited experience in international trade compared to the other finalist, South Korea Minister of Trade, Yoo Hyung-Hee. Immediately before leaving office, then outgoing USTR Robert Lighthizer doubled down on his objection to her appointment, saying it would be a “mistake”.

This decision by the Biden-Harris Administration, hopefully, clears the way for the appointment of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala who would become not just the organisation’s first black and first female Director General, but its first from the African continent. A Nigerian born and internationally respected development economist who is also a naturalised US citizen, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala will bring to the post of WTO DG a wealth of experience and knowledge in tackling development issues at the national and global levels, international diplomacy and finance. Among other things, she previously served as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance for two terms where she championed several reforms, as well as second-in-command (Managing Director) at the World Bank. She currently serves as board chair of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, as well as sits on the boards of several other international agencies.

The USTR statement also lauded the credentials of Minister Yoo who withdrew her bid for the WTO’s top post.

The full statement may be accessed here.

Image source: Wikipedia


The Caribbean Trade Law and Development Blog is owned and was founded by Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. (Dist.), LL.B. (Hons), a Caribbean-based trade and development consultant. She writes and presents regularly on trade and development matters affecting the Caribbean and other small states. You can follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw. All views expressed on this Blog are Alicia's personal views and do NOT necessarily reflect the views of any institution or entity with which she may from time to time be affiliated.

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