Should Prez Biden support Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala for WTO top job? – Ex-US officials say yes

Abu Mubarik Feb 4, 2021 at 11:00am

February 04, 2021 at 11:00 am | Money Moves, News, Women

Abu Mubarik

Abu Mubarik

February 04, 2021 at 11:00 am | Money Moves, News, Women

If Okonjo-Iweala is approved by consensus, she will replace Roberto Azevêdo as the next WTO Director-General. Photo: GAVI, THE VACCINE ALLIANCE

The Biden administration has been urged to support the bid of former Nigerian minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to head the World Trade Organization by a group of former government officials.

The ex-Nigeria finance minister, who is also a US citizen, was blocked from becoming the first woman to occupy the World Trade Organization (WTO) job by the Trump administration.

By vetoing her selection, America became the fiercest impediment to Okonjo-Iweala’s ambition, thereby halting the selection process as the WTO director-general position is based on consensus.

In a letter to President Joe Biden, the former US government officials said among the critical matters before him and his cabinet is the leadership of the WTO. Also, the letter noted that the opposition of Okonjo-Iweala by the Trump administration was “contentious practice of pitting America against multilateral alliances was in full display in this WTO race.”

“Okonjo-Iweala is a uniquely qualified leader poised to help the WTO evolve and succeed for future generations,” the letter said, according to Bloomberg. “She is a leader who can also be relied on to pay due attention to the concerns many Americans have about global trade. She has what it takes to lead WTO reforms and take the organization into the future.”

“It was no surprise to us that a stellar Nigerian-American, Dr Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, emerged as the consensus candidate for the position of Director-General of the WTO having won the support of the overwhelming majority of member nations, including America’s leading trading partners in the European Union,” it added.

The Nigerian has the support of critical bodies such as the European Union and the African Union. If she is approved by consensus, she will replace Roberto Azevêdo as the next WTO Director-General. Azevêdo stepped down as WTO Director-General on 31 August 2020, a year before the expiry of his mandate.

Okonjo-Iweala’s vast experience makes her suitable for the job. Besides serving as Nigeria’s finance minister, she also served as a Managing Director of the World Bank where she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia.

Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low-income countries during both the food and later financial crisis. She has chaired the replenishment of over $40 billion for the International Development Association (IDA), the grant, and the soft credit arm of the World Bank.

Her achievements as Finance Minister garnered international recognition for improving Nigeria’s financial stability and fostering greater fiscal transparency to combat corruption. In October 2005, she led the Nigerian team that negotiated the cancellation of 60% of Nigeria’s external debt ($18 billion) with the Paris Club. 

She was educated at Harvard and has a PhD in Regional Economics and Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Okonjo-Iweala is the recipient of numerous awards, including Honorary Doctorates from Trinity College, Dublin, Brown University, and Amherst College, among others. She is the recipient of Time magazine’s European Hero of the Year Award, 2004, for her work on economic reform in Nigeria among many other recognitions.

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