Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, an economist and former finance minister of Nigeria, appears set to become the next director-general of the World Trade Organization, with the Biden administration announcing its “strong support” for her candidacy on Friday. She would be the first woman and the first African national to lead the organization.
Yoo Myung-hee, the South Korean trade minister who was also a finalist for the role, said on Friday that she planned to withdraw herself from consideration, leaving the path open for Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, The Associated Press reported.
The two women were announced as finalists for the trade organization’s top job in October, whittled down from a group of eight candidates over several months, with Dr. Okonjo-Iweala emerging as the person with the broadest support, the WTO said at the time.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala served twice as Nigeria’s finance minister, spent 25 years at the World Bank as a development economist, and now is the chairwoman of the Center for Global Development, according to the center’s website. A spokeswoman for Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said on Friday that she “congratulates Yoo Myung-hee on her long campaign and welcomes South Korea’s commitment to rebuilding and enhancing multilateralism.”
“Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is eager to focus on the many needed reforms at the WTO,” Ms. Toomey said. “She is humbled by the support she has received from WTO members and of champions in Nigeria and other parts of the world.”
The search for someone to fill the top job started after the former director-general, Roberto Azevêdo of Brazil, announced last May that he would be leaving the job a year early, citing personal reasons and a desire to give W.T.O. members a head start on choosing his replacement. He left on August 31 without a successor.