U.S. backs Okonjo-Iweala, first woman and African, to head WTO

Crisis averted: Yoo’s withdrawal signals the end of months of uncertainty about who will lead the WTO for at least the next four years. Yoo and Okonjo-Iweala were the last of an initial field of eight and the first women to be seriously considered for the role. Roberto Azev√™do from Brazil resigned as General Manager in August, a year before his term was due to expire.

“It is particularly important to emphasize that two highly qualified women made it to the final round of the examination of the position of WTO Director-General – the first time a woman has made it at this stage in the institution’s history,” it said Office of the U.S. Sales Agent wrote Friday in an unassigned statement.

At the end of last month the administration announced its support for the rapid installation of a new General Manager. President Joe Biden spoke to South Korean leader Moon Jae-in on Wednesday, although neither country indicated that the WTO position had been discussed.

About the front runner: Okonjo-Iweala, who became a US citizen in 2019, was the first woman and the first African to head the WTO. A trained economist, she spent most of her career at the World Bank, eventually holding number 2 as Managing Director of Operations. She was Minister of Finance of Nigeria twice.

“Dr. Okonjo-Iweala brings a wealth of knowledge in business and international diplomacy from her 25 years at the World Bank and two terms as Nigerian Treasury Secretary. She is widely recognized for effective leadership and has a proven track record of leading a large international organization with a diverse membership, “the USTR office wrote in its statement.

Okonjo-Iweala tweeted Friday that she was “grateful for the US support” and congratulated Yoo on a “highly competitive campaign”.

What’s next: The next General Council meeting of the WTO is scheduled for March 1-2, but a special meeting to appoint Okonjo-Iweala could now be convened earlier.

Doug Palmer contributed to this report.

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