Global Call for President Biden to Support the First Black Woman to Lead the WTO

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

On August 31, 2020, Roberto Azevêdo stepped down as the World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General, a year before the expiry of his mandate. General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand and his two co-facilitators in the selection process to choose the WTO’s next Director-General told the organizations members on October 28, 2020 that based on their consultations with all delegations the candidate best poised to attain consensus and become the 7th Director-General was Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria.

“She clearly carried the largest support by Members in the final round and she clearly enjoyed broad support from Members from all levels of development and all geographic regions and has done so throughout the process. I am therefore submitting the name of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the candidate most likely to attract consensus and recommending her appointment by the General Council as the next Director-General of the WTO until 31 August 2024,” Ambassador Walker said.

But for the United States’ lone opposition, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, would have been declared the new WTO Director-General in October. Despite securing votes from 163 out of 164 members of the trade organization, the former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance of Nigeria could not be declared the Director-General of the WTO because of the objection by the United States, which cited lack of experience and procedural issues for its stance. The rules of the organization state that its Director-General must be selected by a consensus.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is in fact extremely qualified to hold this role. She was born in Delta State, Nigeria and came to the United States in 1973 as a teenager to study at Harvard University where she graduated magna cum laude with an A.B. in Economics in 1976. She went on to earn her Ph.D in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A United States citizen, she has had a 25-year career at the World Bank in Washington, DC as a development economist, rising to the No. 2 position of Managing Director, where she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia.

Okonjo-Iweala holds degrees from Harvard and MIT

The first woman to serve as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and also as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala hopes to continue to break barriers and be the first woman to lead the WTO. She currently sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the African Risk Capacity. It is irrefutable that she is qualified to knowledgeably and skillfully carry out the duties required of the Director-General.

Though Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was able to secure the support of Africa, China, the European Union, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean member-countries, when Donald Trump was President of the United States, the country was backing Ms. Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea, Okonjo-Iweala’s sole opponent. The WTO had two options, to override its biggest paymaster by vote or hope for a change of U.S. President and wait until he takes charge.

Now that President Joe Biden has officially taken office, that time has come. CEO and Co-Founder of Amplify Africa, Damilare Kujembola has started a petition to impress upon the President to support Dr. Okonjo Iweala’s bid to lead the WTO.

Congresswoman Karen Bass speaks out urging President Biden to support Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

It is at times such as this where using our voices is imperative so please sign and share this petition for the withdrawal of the United States veto currently preventing Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala from being the first woman and first Black woman to lead the World Trade Organization.

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