WTO: Stiglitz, Others Urge Biden to Back Okonjo-Iweala

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Obinna Chima

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 posted on AllAfrica.com.
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, U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)
Former U.S. Executive Director of the African Development Bank
Ambassador Johnnie Carson
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs
Former U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda
Teresa Clarke
Chairman and CEO, Africa.com
Ambassador Herman J. “Hank” Cohen
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
President & CEO, Cohen and Woods International
Akunna Cook
Former U.S. 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, U.S. Treasury
Former White House Deputy Press Secretary
Managing Partner Hamilton Place Strategies
Ambassador Jendayi Frazer
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of African Affairs
Former U.S. 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 U.S. Ambassador to Botswana
Former Senior Director for Africa, National Security Council
Dr. Gloria Herndon
Former Foreign Service Officer, U.S. 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, U.S. Department of State
Former U.S. Ambassador to The Kingdom of Swaziland
Ambassador (ret.) Howard F. Jeter
Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and Botswana
Former Special Presidential Envoy to Liberia
Jeffrey Krilla
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
Florie Liser
Former Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa
President and CEO of Corporate Council on Africa (CCA)
Clay Lowery
Former Assistant Secretary, U.S. Treasury
Former Director, International Finance, National Security Council
Ambassador (ret.) Terence P. McCulley
Former U.S. 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, U.S. Department of State
Former Deputy Counsel to the President, The White House
Todd Moss, PhD
Former U.S. 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, U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa
Co-founder & Former CEO, The Africa Society
Bobby J. Pittman
Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Finance and Debt, U.S. 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 U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria
Former U.S. Ambassador to ECOWAS
Former U.S. Ambassador to Republic of Congo
Former Africa Director, National Security Council
CEO-FEEEDS
Jeannine B. Scott
Chairman, Constituency for Africa (CFA)
Principal, America to Africa Consulting (A2A)
Former Alternate & Advisor to the U.S. 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 U.S. 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