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Former US Officials Urge Biden to Back ‘Stellar’ Okonjo-Iweala for WTO DG

Former senior United States government officials have advised President Joe Biden to support Nigeria’s candidate, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to head the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as Director General. Okonjo-Iweala, who

Former senior United States government officials have advised President Joe Biden to support Nigeria’s candidate, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to head the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as Director General.

Okonjo-Iweala, who would be the first woman to lead the WTO 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.

But for the opposition of the United States, Okonjo-Iweala would have been announced on Wednesday as the first female and African to lead the global trade body.

In the race for the post, she had garnered the votes of 163 of the 164 members of the trade organisation, to be named the preferred candidate for the job compared to her challenger, Ms. Yoo Myung-hee of South Korea, backed by the US. By WTO regulations, the director-general should emerge by consensus.

The letter from the former senior US officials read: “Among the many critical matters before you and your cabinet is the leadership of the WTO. It was no surprise to us that a stellar Nigerian-American, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, emerged as the consensus candidate for the position of Director-General of the WTO having won the support of the overwhelming majority of member nations, including America’s leading trading partners in the European Union.

“The arbitrary opposition to her candidacy from the Trump Administration in October 2020 continues to baffle trade leaders and experts around the world. In round after round of competition, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala won against her competitor for the post, South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee.

“The Trump Administration’s contentious practice of pitting America against multilateral alliances was in full display in this WTO race. We write to respectfully encourage you to support the candidacy of the eminently qualified Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as she seeks to become the next Director-General of the WTO.”

They stressed that, “Okonjo-Iweala is a dynamic woman of vision who can guide the WTO through its era of reform. She possesses a very rare combination of leadership and experience that is deeply grounded in international trade, finance, economics and diplomacy.

“Her selection, as the first American and woman of color to serve as the WTO’s director-general will send a clear message of inclusion to the rest of the world.”

While highlighting the specific qualifications of the Nigeria’s two-term former Finance Minister, they pointed out that, “as an economist with degrees from both Harvard University and MIT, she has been sure-footed throughout her career in articulating a compelling, nuanced vision for the future of global trade in goods and services and the institutions that support it.”

They added: “She is a consummate diplomat seasoned in building coalitions. For example, she helped negotiate a politically delicate multilateral replenishment — on the order of $49 billion — for the International Development Association, the World Bank’s lending arm for the poorest nations.

“As a dual citizen of the United States and Nigeria, she has established herself as a highly respected authority in both nations, especially on issues related to global development. During her meteoric rise through the World Bank ranks to the position of Managing Director, she gained invaluable experience in managing the complex relationships between development issues, institutions, business interests and measurable outcomes.

“This experience, together with her recently completed five-year tenure as board chair of GAVI— the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization— perfectly position her to help build pragmatic solutions for pandemic-related trade and intellectual property challenges across diverse global stakeholders.

“We know Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and have found her to be a woman of integrity, an honest broker and a pragmatist who consistently delivers results. We believe strongly that she can be a transformative director-general, one who — with your support — will be embraced and effective within and beyond the WTO.

“In sum, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a uniquely qualified leader poised to help the WTO evolve and succeed for future generations. 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 organisation into the future.” Those who signed the letter include the following:

The Hon. Mimi Alemayehou

 Former Executive Vice President, US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)

 Former US Executive Director of the African Development Bank;

Ambassador Johnnie Carson

 Former US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs

 Former US Ambassador to Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda;

Teresa Clarke

 Chairman and CEO, Africa.com;

Ambassador Herman J. “Hank” Cohen

   Former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

   President & CEO, Cohen and Woods International;

Akunna Cook

    Former US Foreign Service Officer

    Founder and Principal, Drake Road Strategies;

John G. Coumantaros

    Chairman of Flour Mills of Nigeria

    Chairman CEO of Southern Star Shipping Co Inc (New York)

    Founding Member of US Nigeria Council;

Ambassador Ruth Davis

    Former U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Benin

    Former Director, U.S. Foreign Service Institute

    Former Director General, U.S. Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources;

The Hon. Vivian Lowery Derryck

    Former Deputy Assistant Secretary (EEO and Civil Rights), U.S. Department of State

    Founder of the Bridges Institute

    Former Assistant Administrator for Africa, USAID;

The Hon. Lauri Fitz-Pegado

    Former Assistant Secretary

    Director General, U.S. Foreign Commercial Service;

Melvin Foote

    President & CEO, Constituency for Africa;

The Hon. Tony Fratto

    Former Assistant Secretary, US Treasury

    Former White House Deputy Press Secretary

    Managing Partner Hamilton Place Strategies;

Ambassador Jendayi Frazer

    Former US Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of African Affairs

    Former US Ambassador to South Africa

    Former Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for African Affairs, National Security Council

    President & CEO, 50 Ventures LLC;

Ambassador Michelle D. Gavin

    Former US Ambassador to Botswana

    Former Senior Director for Africa, National Security Council;

Dr. Gloria Herndon

    Former Foreign Service Officer, US Department of State

    Chair Corporate Board, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO)

    CEO, GB Group;

Cameron Hudson

    Former Director, African Affairs, National Security Council

    Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council Africa Center;

Ambassador Makila James (ret.)

    Former Deputy Assistant Secretary, East Africa and The Sudans, US Department of State

    Former US Ambassador to The Kingdom of Swaziland;

Ambassador (ret.) Howard F. Jeter

    Former US Ambassador to Nigeria and Botswana

    Former Special Presidential Envoy to Liberia;

Jeffrey Krilla

    Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State;

Florie Liser

    Former Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa

    President and CEO of Corporate Council on Africa (CCA);

Clay Lowery

    Former Assistant Secretary, US Treasury

    Former Director, International Finance, National Security Council;

Ambassador (ret.) Terence P. McCulley

    Former US Ambassador to Mali, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire

    Chairman, US-Nigeria Council for Food Security, Trade and Investment;

Mora McLean

    President Emerita, Historian, and Program Strategist, The Africa-America Institute

    Former Chair, USTR Trade Advisory Committee on Africa;

Cheryl Mills

    Former Counselor and Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary, US Department of State

    Former Deputy Counsel to the President, The White House;

Todd Moss, PhD

    Former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State;

Ambassador John Negroponte

    First Director, National Intelligence

    Former Ambassador to the United Nations

    Former Deputy Secretary of State;

The Hon. Constance Berry Newman

    Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

    Chair of the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network;

Thomas R. Nides

    Former Chief of Staff, Office of the United States Trade Representative

    Former Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, U.S. Department of State

    Vice Chairman, Morgan Stanley;

Bernadette Paolo

    Former Staff Director, US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa

    Co-founder & Former CEO, The Africa Society;

Bobby J. Pittman

    Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Finance and Debt, US Department of Treasury

    Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for African Affairs, National Security Council, White House;

Pearl Robinson

    Associate Professor, Tufts University          

    Past President, The African Studies Association;

Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders

    Former US Ambassador to Nigeria

    Former US Ambassador to ECOWAS

    Former US Ambassador to Republic of Congo

    Former Africa Director, National Security Council


Jeannine B. Scott

    Chairman, Constituency for Africa (CFA)

    Principal, America to Africa Consulting (A2A)

    Former Alternate & Advisor to the US ED at the African Development Bank;

Timothy Shortley

    Former Director, African Affairs, National Security Council

    Chief Operating Officer, 50 Ventures, LLC;

Ambassador John Simon

    Former Senior Director, National Security Council

    Former US Ambassador to the African Union

    Managing Partner, Total Impact Capital

    Member, USTR Trade Advisory Committee for Africa;

The Hon. Gayle Smith

    Former Administrator, USAID

    Former Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for African Affairs, National Security Council;

Joseph E. Stiglitz

    Former member and Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers

    University Professor, Columbia University

    Chief Economist, Roosevelt Institute

    Former Chief Economist of the World Bank

    Recipient of Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, 2001;

Rosa Whitaker

    Former Assistant United States Trade Representative for Africa

    President, The Whitaker Group.


Obinna Chima