A Black woman to be world’s top trade official for first time

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Former Nigerian Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Fianace speaks at The 2017 Concordia Annual Summit at Grand Hyatt New York on September 19, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a step closer to becoming director-general of the World Trade Organization after her main competition quit the race following months of uncertainty over the body’s leadership

Republic of Korea (ROK) trade minister Yoo Myung-hee on Friday, abandoned her bid to become head of the WTO. Yoo’s decision clears the way for Okonjo-Iweala to become the global body’s first woman and first African director-general.

The ROK trade ministry said in a statement that Yoo bowed out after consulting with the United States — her prime backer — and other major countries

The process to name a successor to Roberto Azevedo had been deadlocked since October. Key WTO ambassadors backed Okonjo-Iweala as the best pick to lead the organization but former U.S. President Donald Trump said he would only support Yoo.

Okonjo-Iweala is also a former World Bank managing director and chair of the board of Gavi, the UN-backed vaccine alliance that is now playing a central role in the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

She has twice served as Nigeria’s finance minister and as the country’s first foreign minister. Okonjo-Iweala has degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard.

A final decision on the appointment of a WTO director-general is not expected until the next US trade chief is installed, which could be in the coming weeks. The next meeting of the WTO’s general council is on March 1 and 2.


Story compiled with assistance from wire reports