First Woman, African Set to Become World Trade Organization Leader

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    The U.S. gave its formal backing to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to lead the World Trade Organization, removing the final obstacle to her bid to be the first woman and the first African to run the Geneva-based trade body.

    “Dr. Okonjo-Iweala brings a wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy,” the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement Friday. “She is widely respected for her effective leadership and has proven experience managing a large international organization with a diverse membership.”

    The USTR added it “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 Biden administration’s decision to support Okonjo-Iweala’s campaign will be viewed in Geneva as a welcome shift in U.S. support for the multilateral trading system following four years of salvos against an organization that former President Donald Trump previously called the worst trade deal the U.S. ever signed.

    With the U.S. now joining a consensus, WTO general council Chairman David Walker is expected to soon announce a meeting in Geneva, where the organization’s members will formally approve Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment to a four-year term as director-general. WTO Spokesman Keith Rockwell declined to comment.

    On her Twitter account, Okonjo-Iweala said she was “grateful for the expression of support from the U.S.”

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