After the South Korean candidate dropped out of the running, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is set to become the first Black woman to become president of the World Trade Organization.
According to CNN, Yoo Myung-hee, the South Korean trade minister announced on Friday that she would be dropping out of the running for the position, clearing the way for Okonjo-Iweala to oversee the organization. Okonjo-Iweala is an economist and the former finance minister of Nigeria. While Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy had widespread support among the members of the organization, the Trump administration’s support of Yoo complicated things as all members of the WTO must be in agreement for a new leader to be appointed.
The organization has been leaderless since Roberto Azevêdo stepped down from his position in August, a year earlier than when his term was set to end. He left amid an escalating trade dispute between the United States and China. Yoo said that the organization had been without a leader for too long when explaining her decision to drop out during a televised briefing.
The Trump administration was pretty much dead-set on undermining the organization, imposing tariffs on fellow members such as Canada, Mexico, China and the European Union. As such, Okonjo-Iweala is inheriting an organization that’s been increasingly tested on its ability to prevent trade disputes between its members.
Surprise, surprise. A Black woman is being asked to step in and fix a mess she played no role in creating.
Okonjo-Iweala, who hails from one of the few parts of the world where free trade is ascendent, told CNN in August that trade would play an important role in the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The WTO needs a leader at this time. It needs a fresh look, a fresh face, an outsider, someone with the capability to implement reforms and to work with members to make sure the WTO comes out of the partial paralysis that it’s in,” she said in an interview.
Okonjo-Iweala spent 25 years at the World Bank as a development economist, rising to the position of managing director. She also chaired the board of Gavi, which is helping to distribute coronavirus vaccines globally, stepping down at the end of her term in December.
President Biden has pledged to be more diplomatic when it comes to foreign policy, but stressed in a speech to the State Department on Thursday that all foreign policy decisions should have a tangible benefit for the middle class. As such, he’s expected to be very discerning when it comes to signing new trade deals.
While Okonjo-Iweala more or less has the job, she won’t be able to be formally appointed until the Biden administration appoints a new trade representative to the organization. Still, shout out to Okonjo-Iweala for making history. You go regulate them tariffs, girl.