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 former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to head the World Trade Organization

Commonwealth Secretary-General congratulates new head of WTO

16 February 2021

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has welcomed the historic appointment of former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to head the World Trade Organization, the first woman and representative of the African continent to do so.

Speaking on the announcement of the appointment, the Secretary-General said: “I warmly congratulate Dr Okonjo-Iweala on her appointment to this highly important position. She has an impressive record of achievement as a global leader, minister and diplomat, which together with her extensive and renowned technical expertise, make her ideally suited for this role. Her robust knowledge and understanding of Commonwealth trade and development priorities will also be of value and assist her as she leads the WTO in bringing broad fresh perspectives and even more inclusive approaches to global negotiations on trade.

“The Commonwealth has long been committed to free trade in a transparent, inclusive, fair, and open rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization as its core institution. I look forward to working closely together with her and the WTO to support practical action to increase intra-Commonwealth trade in accordance with aspirations and commitments expressed by the governments of our member nations.”

International leadership

The 54 countries of the Commonwealth account for 15 per cent of global trade, and trade among Commonwealth countries was worth US$673 billion in 2019 following a significant contraction in world trade. Members are seeking to boost this to at least $2 trillion by 2030 through the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda. The trade landscape has, however, become more challenging given the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Okonjo Iweala was a well-respected member of the Commonwealth's seven-member High Level Group, convened by the Secretary-General in 2015, which conducted a review of the governance arrangements of the Commonwealth Secretariat and made recommendations on how they could be streamlined and integrated in order to improve oversight, efficiency and transparency in a rapidly changing international environment.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala also chaired the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting in Washington DC in October 2013 - at a time of intense global discussion on the content and direction of the Post-2015 Development Framework.

Image: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by World Economic Forum.