Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala officially took office as the seventh Director-General of the World Trade Organization on the 1st, and his term of office will last until August 31, 2025.
She is the first female Director-General in the history of the WTO and the first Director-General from Africa.
Speaking at the online meeting of the WTO General Council on the same day, Okonjo-Iweala said that she would bring her “all knowledge, enthusiasm, experience and perseverance” to the work of the Director General and would work to reform the WTO and achieve tangible results.
She said that the WTO can no longer act like it used to change its approach.
She hoped that WTO support for multilateral trade would bring meaningful changes in people’s lives, improve people’s living standards and create decent employment opportunities.
Okonjo-Iweala said efforts will be made to complete some of the “achievable” negotiating goals before the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, prioritizing short- and long-term actions needed to deal with the coronavirus epidemic, and focusing on completing fisheries subsidy negotiations by mid-year.
In addition, agreement should be reached on a “road map” for reforming the WTO dispute settlement mechanism for submission to the ministerial meeting for approval and adoption.
She said that the global supply of coronavirus vaccine is seriously insufficient, and there has been a dialogue among members on the exemption of some of the obligations related to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
At the same time, the scope of vaccine production licenses worldwide should be expanded by seeking interim solutions in cooperation with enterprises.
Okonjo-Iweala, 66 years old, has worked for the World Bank for 25 years as the Managing Vice President.
She has also served as the Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, and has served as the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.
Azevedo, the sixth Director-General of the WTO, left office on August 31 last year and ended his term one year early. On February 15 this year, all WTO members unanimously agreed at the special meeting of the General Council to appoint Okonjo-Iweala as the new Director-General.
In addition, WTO members decided at the same day that the 12th ministerial meeting of the organization would be held in Geneva, Switzerland, from the end of November to early December 2021.
The ministerial meeting was originally scheduled to be held in Nursultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, in June 2020, but it was postponed due to the epidemic.
The Ministerial Conference is the highest decision-making authority of the WTO and is usually held every two years.