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WTO DG Race: Stiglitz, Negroponte urge Biden to back Nigerian born economist, Okonjo-Iweala


A good number of former senior U.S. government officials urged President Joe Biden to clear a path for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to head the World Trade Organization after the Trump administration blocked her selection, Bloomberg reports.

Okonjo-Iweala, who would be the first woman to lead the global organization, is a dynamic leader who has the vision to manage the Geneva-based trade body through an era of reform, ex-officials including former World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz and former United Nations Ambassador John Negroponte said in a letter to Biden posted on the website AllAfrica.com.

The Nigerian economist, who is also a U.S. citizen, emerged as the front-runner for the WTO director-general post last year but was vetoed in October by the U.S., the only country to kick against her candidacy. The move obstructed the entire selection process because WTO decisions are made on the basis of a consensus of its 164 members — meaning a single country can derail them.

“Okonjo-Iweala is a uniquely qualified leader poised to help the WTO evolve and succeed for future generations,” the letter said. “She is a leader who can also be relied on to pay due attention to the concerns many Americans have about global trade. She has what it takes to lead WTO reforms and take the organization into the future.”

Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s U.S. Trade Representative, had pushed for Okonjo-Iweala’s opponent, South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, telling the Financial Times in an interview published this week that the Nigerian-American would be a mistake because she has no experience in trade.

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