People & Money

WTO: European Parliament Endorses Okonjo-Iweala

The European Parliament (EP) has endorsed Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the position of director-general (DG) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The body is the legislative branch of the European Union (EU).

Sven Simon, member of the European Parliament (MEP), in a tweet on Wednesday, announced the decision of the parliament.

The decision came against the backdrop of a discussion with Okonjo-Iweala and Yoo Myung-hee, South Korea’s candidate for the WTO top job.

The parliament endorsed Okonjo-Iweala, saying the Nigerian showed a deep understanding of challenges faced by the WTO.

Also Read: WTO: Graca Machel, Awosika Others Lead African Women’s Campaign For Okonjo-Iweala

If appointed, the parliament said, her priorites exhibited a “clear-eyed agenda.”

In a statement, the EP said it came to a conclusion that Okonjo-Iweala’s political approach is necessary to tackle the deal disagreements  between members of the trade organisation.

“Her assessment of the existing problems of the organisation revealed a deal understanding of the fault lines dividing the WTO’s membership,” the statement said.

“The priorities she set out for her first steps after being being appointed reveal a clear- eyed agenda, tackling head on key topics such as special and differential treatment, industrial subsidies and dispute settlement reform, while recognising the need for positive momentum through the conclusion of agreements on issues such as fisheries, e-commerce, and health.

“We were also impressed with her call for opening up the WTO to more cooperation with other international institutions and parliaments, a key source for the legitimacy and accountability that is needed now more than ever to increase acceptance of international trade among the world’s population.

The EP said Okonjo-Iweala’s focus on the empowerment of women, delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals and value- based trade are all key properties that also align with the EU’s global priorities.

Also Read: WTO DG: China Likely to Ditch Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee for Okonjo-Iweala

“We also appreciated the energy with which she is likely to approach her new role. It appears to us that her political approach is what is needed now to resolve the key questions at the organisation, which are not managerial but require high-level political agreement between key global decision makers,” it said.

“Okonjo-Iweala appears to be well- equipped for being the fair broker which could bring key players together and help them find the compromises that will be needed to resolve the WTO’s complex set of challenges and the deal disagreements between its members.

“We therefore very much hope that the EU will be able to support Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy during the last round.”




Mrs Okonjo-Iweala is a global finance expert, an economist and international development professional.

With over 30 years of experience, she has worked in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala is Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisatio, which, since its creation in 2000, has immunized 680 million children globally and saved ten million lives.  She is also a Senior Adviser at Lazard and sits on the Boards of Standard Chartered PLC and Twitter Inc.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, from 2003-2006, and later between 2011 and 2015. She also served briefly as Foreign Minister in 2006.

She spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, rising to the No. 2 position of Managing Director, Operations. She is renowned as the first female and black candidate to contest for the presidency of the World Bank Group in 2012, backed by Africa and major developing countries.

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