Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been nominated as Nigeria’s candidate for the office of the Director-General, World Trade Organization by President Buhari. This was stated in a tweet by the Special Assistant to President Buhari on Digital & New Media, Tolu Ogunlesi in the early hours of Friday.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is an economist and international development expert. She sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered Bank, Twitter, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi), and African Risk Capacity (ARC).
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She has served as Minister of Finance in Nigeria under the administration’s of President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan. She has also been a Managing Director Operations at the World Bank.
In March 2020, in response to South Africa’s economic challenges, which recently slumped into its second recession in two years, President Cyril Ramaphosa has expanded the country’s Economic Advisory Council, with the appointment of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as a member.
If She succeeds, she will not only be Nigeria’s first DG of the WTO, she will be the first Woman, and the first black person to head the organization since its inception, both as GATT or WTO.
The current DG of WTO, Roberto Azevedo had announced on 14 May 2020, that he will resign as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization on 31 August the same year, just a year before his second 4-year term as WTO’s Director-General expires.
Azevedo was appointed in May 2013 as the DG of the WTO, and began his term on 1 September 2013, he was the preferred candidate of developing economies, amongst the 9 nominated candidates. Prior to becoming the DG, he was Brazil’s Ambassador in Geneva to the United Nations’ international organizations and Permanent Representative to the WTO.
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The procedures for appointing the WTO Director-General are described in document WT/L/509 of the organization.
General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand informed members on 20 May 2020 the appointment process for the next Director-General would formally commence on 8 June with nominations accepted from that date until 8 July. Nominations shall be by Members only, and in respect of their own nationals.
The Chair will inform WTO members of nominations as soon as they are received. After 8 July, Chair Walker will issue to members a consolidated list of all candidates. Shortly after the nomination period has closed, candidates will be invited to meet with members at a special General Council meeting, present their views and take questions from the membership.
The WTO was created on 1 January 1995, to replace the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The Final Act that established the WTO regime was signed on 15 April 1994, during the ministerial meeting at Marrakesh Morocco, and hence is known as the Marrakesh Agreement.
GATT was established by a multilateral treaty of 23 countries in 1947 after World War II in the wake of other new multilateral international economic cooperation such as the World Bank (founded in 1944) and the International Monetary Fund founded around the same time.
From 1948 to 1994, the GATT provided the rules for much of world trade and presided over periods that saw some of the highest growth rates in international commerce. It seemed well-established but throughout those 47 years, it was a provisional agreement and organization.
The WTO’s creation on 1 January 1995 marked the biggest reform of international trade since the end of the Second World War. Whereas the GATT mainly dealt with trade in goods, the WTO and its agreements also cover trade in services and intellectual property. The birth of the WTO also created new procedures for the settlement of disputes.
In 2020, the WTO marked its 25th anniversary, it has 164 member states, with headquarters in Geneva Switzerland.
There has been 9 Director-Generals since 1948 including the serving DG; 4 under GATT and 5 under WTO. The Director-General of the WTO serves a maximum of two 4-year terms.