A key group of WTO ambassadors has proposed Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to lead the World Trade Organization, trade sources told Reuters on Wednesday, clearing a path for her to become the first woman and African to head the global watchdog in its 25-year history.
The proposal, which still needs full WTO approval, caps a more than four-month selection process involving intensive lobbying which saw her square up against South Korean trade minister Yoo Myung-hee in the final round.
The recommendation of former finance minister Okonjo-Iweala was made by three WTO ambassadors, the so-called “troika”, after consulting with members in a series of closed-door meetings in Geneva as part of an intricate and opaque process that some have compared to a papal succession.
It still needs to be approved by consensus at a meeting of the WTO’s 164 members.
The official announcement is expected to be made later today by WTO.
Okonjo-Iweala was Nigeria’s finance minister during the tenures of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.
She has experience working at international governance bodies as a former managing director of the World Bank and as a chairman at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.
Once officially announced, Okonjo-Iweala will be the first African and first female director-general of the international body in its 25-year history.