WTO’s Dr Okonjo-Iweala: the game-changer we need for the multilateral trading system

by EU Brussels

Statement of leading MEPs Bernd Lange and Sven Simon welcoming the 15 February appointment of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the new Director General of the World Trade Organization.

“I am extremely pleased with the appointment of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Not only will she become the first female Director-General, she will also be the first Director-General from Africa.

For too long the interests of developing and emerging countries were not taken sufficiently into account by the major powers. Her appointment provides an opportunity put all members on equal footing.

“We have to be aware that it will not be an easy ride. Dr Okonjo-Iweala is taking over the organisation at probably the most difficult period in its history. We have also lost precious time due to the long blockade of her nomination by the previous US administration.

“The organisation requires root-and-branch reform to make it fit for the future. While resolving the impasse in the Appellate Body will not be easy, I expect a much more constructive atmosphere than in the past four years. This is also an opportunity to bring the issue of climate and sustainability to the forefront. In addition, WTO has to deal with the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic: we need to work together more on digitalisation and health. The new Director-General will need to be a crisis manager and reformer at the same time to get rules-based trade back on track.

“We had the honour to have a discussion with Dr Okonjo-Iweala in Parliament’s Steering Group of the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organisation (PCWTO) on 19 October 2020. I am strongly convinced that her extensive knowledge, impressive track-record and innovative approach are the elements we need to restore trust in the multilateral system.

She has got what it takes to give the multilateral trading system a new push and become the game changer we need. I also appreciate the importance she attaches to parliamentary involvement and I look forward to a fruitful cooperation. She can count on the full support of the European Parliament”, said Bernd Lange (S&D, DE), chair of the Committee on International Trade and co-chair of the Steering Group of PCWTO.

“The appointment of Dr Okonjo-Iweala as the new Director-General bodes well for the functioning of the WTO and the multilateral trade system as a whole. As the first African Director General she will bring new perspectives to international trade policy, in particular, in the area of sustainable development and growth. Her confirmation today is also a success for the European Parliament, which supported Ms Okonjo-Iweala against opposition from the Trump Administration.

“We congratulate her and look forward to closer cooperation between the WTO and the EU. She is the right person at the right time to overcome the tremendous challenges for the international trading system and make the upcoming reforms a success”, said Sven Simon (EPP, DE), co-chair of the Steering Group of PCWTO.


The WTO General Council is set to appoint Dr.Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as director general at its special meeting on 15 February. Dr Okonjo-Iweala succeeds Mr Roberto Azevêdo.

Eszter BALÁZS photo EU