The Office of the United States Trade Representative, in a written statement today, “strongly backed the candidacy of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), clearing the path for the first woman and first African to lead the 26-year-old Organisation.
It will be recalled that earlier today, the South Korea’s candidate for the Director-General post of the WTO, Yoo Myung-Hee announced she was withdrawing from the race.
Office of the United States Trade Statement on the Director General of the World Trade Organization
The United States takes note of today’s decision by the Republic of Korea’s Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee to withdraw her candidacy for Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
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.
The Biden-Harris Administration also congratulates Minister Yoo Myung-hee on her strong campaign for this position. She is a trailblazer as the Republic of Korea’s first female trade minister and the first candidate from Korea to advance this far in the Director General selection process. The United States respects her decision to withdraw her candidacy from the Director General race to help facilitate a consensus decision at the WTO.
It is particularly important to underscore that two highly qualified women made it to the final round of consideration for the position of WTO Director General — the first time that any woman has made it to this stage in the history of the institution.
The United States stands ready to engage in the next phase of the WTO process for reaching a consensus decision on the WTO Director General. The Biden-Harris Administration looks forward to working with a new WTO Director General to find paths forward to achieve necessary substantive and procedural reform of the WTO.
The WTO-DG selection process commenced in July 2020 following the untimely resignation of Brazilian Robert Azevedo, a year before the expiration of his tenure.
Eight candidates had gone through several screening processes culminating in its consideration for the final two pick: Myung-Hee and Okonjo-Iweala.
Okonjo-Iweala had based her campaign on rebuilding trust, hunting for solutions and strengthening the multi-lateral trading system of the WTO.
No fewer than 100 of its 164 member countries backed Nigeria’s former Finance Minister.
However, the Trump administration, had favoured Yoo, complicating the decision-making process since the selection of a new leader requires all WTO members to agree.
Reports of the Korean’s seeming withdrawal first came up in November 2020 after Trump’s election loss, until it was confirmed today.
With the U.S. been the only WTO member blocking Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy having endorsed her, the Chairman of the WTO General Council, David Walker, can announce the resumption of the WTO’s suspended October General Council meeting to consider the appointment of a new Director-General. This is expected to happen in a number of days.
NOI, as she is fondly called did respond to the US endorsement, thanking Nigerians, President Buhari and her opponent Yoo.
Grateful for the expression of support from the US today for DG @WTO. Congratulations to Madam Yoo of Rep. Korea for a hard fought campaign.Thank You President Muhammadu Buhari @MBuhari & all Nigerians for your unflinching support.Thank you friends. Love to my family. Glory to God.