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Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Begins Historic Role as WTO Director-General

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Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has officially commenced her role as The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) director-general.

Dr. Okojo-Iweala’s appointment makes history as she is the first female director-general and the first African to hold the position.

“I am coming into one of the most important institutions in the world and we have a lot of work to do,” she said as she arrived for her first day on the job in Geneva. “I feel ready to go.”

Her first day coincides with the annual meeting of the WTO’s General Council. The General Council is the WTO’s highest-level decision-making body in Geneva and meets about every two years.

The World Trade Organization announced that the Nigerian economist and former finance minister would be its next leader on Feb. 15. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala will assume the post on Mar. 1 for a renewable term expiring on Aug. 31, 2025.

“This is a very significant moment for the WTO. 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,” said General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand said at the time.

“Dr Ngozi, on behalf of all members I wish to sincerely thank you for your graciousness in these exceptional months, and for your patience. We look forward to collaborating closely with you, Dr Ngozi, and I am certain that all members will work with you constructively during your tenure as Director-General to shape the future of this organization,” he added.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is clear about her mission: “A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again. Our organization 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.”

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