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Okonjo-Iweala begins first historic day as WTO director-general

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala kicks off job as Director-General of the WTO.   -  
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Evan Agostini/Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Nigeria

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) first female and first African director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala started work on Monday after her official appointment on February 15.

Her appointment comes as she fills a six-month WTO leadership void and after her campaign was derailed by a veto from the former US Trump administration.

The arrival of his successor Joe Biden made it possible for her to receive the consensus backing required to end the impasse.

"I am coming into one of the most important institutions in the world and we have a lot of work to do," the former Nigerian finance and foreign minister said as she arrived for her first day on the job in Geneva.

"I feel ready to go."

Ngozi is hitting the ground running, with her first day on the job in Geneva coinciding with the annual meeting of the WTO's General Council.

"I am hoping to be able to listen in and see what delegations have to say, what ambassadors have to say, about the key issues," she told journalists about her expectations for her first day.

This historic position coincides with the annual meeting of the body’s General Council where delegates are to agree on the organisation' of their next ministerial conference.

One of the first tasks for the 66-year-old Nigerian former finance minister will be to nominate four new deputy directors to help recharge the organisation's negotiating mechanism.

This and others amid the global economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic — about which Okonjo-Iweala has voiced concern about growing protectionism and nationalism.

The leader has already insisted that trade barriers must be lowered to help the world recover. and her term in office will see about any possible improvement to the collective health of the global economy.

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