Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the WTOs next Director-General

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the WTO's next Director-General

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has appointed Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as its next director-general, making her the first woman, and first African, to head the organisation.

Okonjo-Iweala will take up her role on 1 March with the renewable term set to expire on 31 August 2025.

"This is a very significant moment for the WTO," said General Council chair David Walker of New Zealand. "On behalf of the General Council, I extend our warmest congratulations to Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on her appointment as the WTO's next director-general and formally welcome her to this General Council meeting."

Dr Okonjo-Iweala, who was appointed today (15 February), says a key priority for her would be to work with members to quickly address the economic and health consequences brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again. Our organisation faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today."

The General Council decision follows months of uncertainty, which arose when the US initially refused to join the consensus around Dr Okonjo-Iweala and threw its support behind trade minister Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea. But following Yoo's decision on 5 February to withdraw her candidacy, the administration of newly elected US President Joseph Biden Jr dropped the US objection and announced instead that Washington extends its "strong support" to the candidacy of Dr Okonjo-Iweala.

The process for selecting a new director-general was triggered on 14 May when former director-general Roberto Azevêdo informed WTO members he would be stepping down from his post one year before the expiry of his mandate. He subsequently left office on 31 August.