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Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala appointed WTO director-general

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The World Trade Organization (WTO) has appointed former Nigeria’s finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the new director-general. Ngozi now becomes the first woman and also African to lead the Switzerland-based institution.

Her appointment came after the WTO had a special general council meeting on Monday.

US President Joe Biden strongly swung behind her candidacy shortly after the only other remaining contender, South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, pulled out.

Okonjo-Iweala, 66, served as her country’s first female finance and foreign minister and has a 25-year career behind her as a development economist at the World Bank.

Okonjo-Iweala, who also serves on Twitter’s board of directors, as chair of the GAVI vaccine alliance and as a special envoy for the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 fight, saw her candidacy get a boost when the EU threw its weight behind her.

Even before the Covid-19 crisis hit, the WTO was already grappling with stalled trade talks and struggling to curb tensions between the United States and China.

The global trade body has also faced relentless attacks from Washington, which has crippled the WTO dispute settlement appeal system and threatened to leave the organization altogether.

Okonjo-Iweala said earlier this month that she had broad experience in championing reform and was the right person to help put the WTO back on track.

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