Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala expropriates the World Trade Organization officially Monday, aso Naija reports.
“The WTO is too significant to allow it to be de-stress, disabled,” the first woman and first African to ever steer the global trade essence told AFP a day after her nomination last month.
The 66-year-old Nigerian former finance minister carries the helm after the WTO was left adrift for several months ensuing the unexpected withdrawal of Brazilian career diplomat Roberto Azevedo last August, a year ahead of schedule.
Interpreting a lengthy selection process, development economist Okonjo-Iweala, who spent 25 years at the World Bank, was finally anointed by the WTO’s 164 members on February 15.
From an initial eight candidates, she was the clear favorite among the last two standing in November. However, her appointment was delayed by former US President Donald Trump blocking her nomination.
The arrival of his successor Joe Biden made it possible for her to receive the consensus backing required to end the impasse.
She is owning the ground running, with her first day on the job in Geneva coinciding with the annual meeting of WTO’s General Counsel.
Diplomats are expected to agree that the institution’s subsequent ministerial convention, which had been scheduled for last year but was postponed due to the pandemic, will be held in Geneva in December.
The question lingers whether the new WTO chief, considered a strong rail led forerunner, will be able to mold the organization in her image before then.
While some observers voice hope that Okonjo-Iweala will inject much-needed energy, others stress she has little wiggle room to make a dramatic change, given that WTO decisions are made by member states — and only when they can reach consensus.
One of her first tasks will be to nominate four new deputy directors to help recharge the organization’s negotiating mechanisms.
Okonjo-Iweala has said that one of her main objectives is to push long-blocked trade talks on fishery subsidies across the finish line in time for the ministerial conference, but with negotiations dragging on, that could be a tough sell.