World Trade Organization -The first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General

World Trade Organization -The first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General

Source: World Trade Organization

History is made: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala chosen as Director-General

WTO members made history today (15 February 2021) when the General Council agreed by consensus to select Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria as the organization’s seventh Director-General.

When she takes office on 1 March, Dr Okonjo-Iweala will become the first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General. Her term, renewable, will expire on 31 August 2025.

The process for selecting a new Director-General was triggered on 14 May when former Director-General Mr Roberto Azevêdo informed WTO members he would be stepping down from his post one year before the expiry of his mandate. He subsequently left office on 31 August.

The General Council decision follows months of uncertainty which arose when the United States initially refused to join the consensus around Dr Okonjo-Iweala and threw its support behind Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea. But following Ms Yoo’s decision on 5 February to withdraw her candidacy, the administration of newly elected US President Joseph R. Biden Jr. dropped the US objection and announced instead that Washington extends its “strong support” to the candidacy of Dr Okonjo-Iweala.

Amb. Walker extended his thanks to all eight of the candidates who participated in the selection process and particularly to Ms Yoo “for her ongoing commitment to and support for the multilateral trading system and for the WTO”.

The General Council agreed on 31 July that there would be three stages of consultations held over a two-month period commencing 7 September. During these confidential consultations, the field of candidates was narrowed from eight to five and then two. On 28 October, General Council Chair David Walker of New Zealand had informed members that based on consultations with all delegations Dr Okonjo-Iweala was best poised to attain consensus of the 164 WTO members and that she had the deepest and the broadest support among the membership. At that meeting, the United States was the only WTO member which said it could not join the consensus.
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World Trade Organization Introducing Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala


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Members and Observers
164 members since 29 July 2016 , with dates of WTO membership.
Afghanistan — 29 July 2016
Albania — 8 September 2000
Angola — 23 November 1996
Antigua and Barbuda — 1 January 1995
Argentina — 1 January 1995
Armenia — 5 February 2003
Australia — 1 January 1995
Austria — 1 January 1995

Bahrain, Kingdom of — 1 January 1995
Bangladesh — 1 January 1995
Barbados — 1 January 1995
Belgium — 1 January 1995
Belize — 1 January 1995
Benin — 22 February 1996
Bolivia, Plurinational State of — 12 September 1995
Botswana — 31 May 1995
Brazil — 1 January 1995
Brunei Darussalam — 1 January 1995
Bulgaria — 1 December 1996
Burkina Faso — 3 June 1995
Burundi — 23 July 1995

Cabo Verde — 23 July 2008
Cambodia — 13 October 2004
Cameroon — 13 December 1995
Canada — 1 January 1995
Central African Republic — 31 May 1995
Chad — 19 October 1996
Chile — 1 January 1995
China — 11 December 2001
Colombia — 30 April 1995
Congo — 27 March 1997
Costa Rica — 1 January 1995
Côte d’Ivoire — 1 January 1995
Croatia — 30 November 2000
Cuba — 20 April 1995
Cyprus — 30 July 1995
Czech Republic — 1 January 1995

Democratic Republic of the Congo — 1 January 1997
Denmark — 1 January 1995
Djibouti — 31 May 1995
Dominica — 1 January 1995
Dominican Republic — 9 March 1995

Ecuador — 21 January 1996
Egypt — 30 June 1995
El Salvador — 7 May 1995
Estonia — 13 November 1999
Eswatini — 1 January 1995
European Union (formerly EC) — 1 January 1995

Fiji — 14 January 1996
Finland — 1 January 1995
France — 1 January 1995

Gabon — 1 January 1995
Gambia — 23 October 1996
Georgia — 14 June 2000
Germany — 1 January 1995
Ghana — 1 January 1995
Greece — 1 January 1995
Grenada — 22 February 1996
Guatemala — 21 July 1995
Guinea — 25 October 1995
Guinea-Bissau — 31 May 1995
Guyana — 1 January 1995

Haiti — 30 January 1996
Honduras — 1 January 1995
Hong Kong, China — 1 January 1995
Hungary — 1 January 1995

Iceland — 1 January 1995
India — 1 January 1995
Indonesia — 1 January 1995
Ireland — 1 January 1995
Israel — 21 April 1995
Italy — 1 January 1995

Jamaica — 9 March 1995
Japan — 1 January 1995
Jordan — 11 April 2000

Kazakhstan — 30 November 2015
Kenya — 1 January 1995
Korea, Republic of — 1 January 1995
Kuwait, the State of — 1 January 1995
Kyrgyz Republic — 20 December 1998

Lao People’s Democratic Republic — 2 February 2013
Latvia — 10 February 1999
Lesotho — 31 May 1995
Liberia — 14 July 2016
Liechtenstein — 1 September 1995
Lithuania — 31 May 2001
Luxembourg — 1 January 1995

Macao, China — 1 January 1995
Madagascar — 17 November 1995
Malawi — 31 May 1995
Malaysia — 1 January 1995
Maldives — 31 May 1995
Mali — 31 May 1995
Malta — 1 January 1995
Mauritania — 31 May 1995
Mauritius — 1 January 1995
Mexico — 1 January 1995
Moldova, Republic of — 26 July 2001
Mongolia — 29 January 1997
Montenegro — 29 April 2012
Morocco — 1 January 1995
Mozambique — 26 August 1995
Myanmar — 1 January 1995

Namibia — 1 January 1995
Nepal — 23 April 2004
Netherlands — 1 January 1995
New Zealand — 1 January 1995
Nicaragua — 3 September 1995
Niger — 13 December 1996
Nigeria — 1 January 1995
North Macedonia — 4 April 2003
Norway — 1 January 1995

Oman — 9 November 2000

Pakistan — 1 January 1995
Panama — 6 September 1997
Papua New Guinea — 9 June 1996
Paraguay — 1 January 1995
Peru — 1 January 1995
Philippines — 1 January 1995
Poland — 1 July 1995
Portugal — 1 January 1995

Qatar — 13 January 1996

Romania — 1 January 1995
Russian Federation — 22 August 2012
Rwanda — 22 May 1996

Saint Kitts and Nevis — 21 February 1996
Saint Lucia — 1 January 1995
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — 1 January 1995
Samoa — 10 May 2012
Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of — 11 December 2005
Senegal — 1 January 1995
Seychelles — 26 April 2015
Sierra Leone — 23 July 1995
Singapore — 1 January 1995
Slovak Republic — 1 January 1995
Slovenia — 30 July 1995
Solomon Islands — 26 July 1996
South Africa — 1 January 1995
Spain — 1 January 1995
Sri Lanka — 1 January 1995
Suriname — 1 January 1995
Sweden — 1 January 1995
Switzerland — 1 July 1995

Chinese Taipei — 1 January 2002
Tajikistan — 2 March 2013
Tanzania — 1 January 1995
Thailand — 1 January 1995
Togo — 31 May 1995
Tonga — 27 July 2007
Trinidad and Tobago — 1 March 1995
Tunisia — 29 March 1995
Turkey — 26 March 1995

Uganda — 1 January 1995
Ukraine — 16 May 2008
United Arab Emirates — 10 April 1996
United Kingdom — 1 January 1995
United States — 1 January 1995
Uruguay — 1 January 1995

Vanuatu — 24 August 2012
Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of — 1 January 1995
Viet Nam — 11 January 2007

Yemen — 26 June 2014

Zambia — 1 January 1995
Zimbabwe — 5 March 1995

Observer governments
Algeria
Andorra
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Belarus
Bhutan
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Comoros
Curaçao
Equatorial Guinea
Ethiopia
Holy See
Iran
Iraq
Lebanese Republic
Libya
Sao Tomé and Principe
Serbia
Somalia
South Sudan
Sudan
Syrian Arab Republic
Timor-Leste
Turkmenistan
Uzbekistan

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History of the multilateral trading system
From the early days of the Silk Road to the creation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the birth of the WTO, trade has played an important role in supporting economic development and promoting peaceful relations among nations. This page traces the history of trade, from its earliest roots to the present day.

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
A single page of text from 1941 is a powerful reminder that the desire for peace and security drove the creation of today’s global economic system. The global rules that underpin our multilateral economic system were a direct reaction to the Second World War and a desire for it to never be repeated.

Birth of the WTO
The WTO’s creation on 1 January 1995 marked the biggest reform of international trade since the end of the Second World War. Whereas the GATT mainly dealt with trade in goods, the WTO and its agreements also cover trade in services and intellectual property. The birth of the WTO also created new procedures for the settlement of disputes.
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The World Trade Organization
The WTO is run by its member governments. All major decisions are made by the membership as a whole, either by ministers (who usually meet at least once every two years) or by their ambassadors or delegates (who meet regularly in Geneva).

Trade negotiations
The WTO agreements cover goods, services and intellectual property. They spell out the principles of liberalization, and the permitted exceptions. They include individual countries’ commitments to lower customs tariffs and other trade barriers, and to open and keep open services markets. They set procedures for settling disputes. These agreements are not static; they are renegotiated from time to time and new agreements can be added to the package. Many are now being negotiated under the Doha Development Agenda, launched by WTO trade ministers in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001.

Implementation and monitoring
WTO agreements require governments to make their trade policies transparent by notifying the WTO about laws in force and measures adopted. Various WTO councils and committees seek to ensure that these requirements are being followed and that WTO agreements are being properly implemented. All WTO members must undergo periodic scrutiny of their trade policies and practices, each review containing reports by the country concerned and the WTO Secretariat.

Dispute settlement
The WTO’s procedure for resolving trade quarrels under the Dispute Settlement Understanding is vital for enforcing the rules and therefore for ensuring that trade flows smoothly. Countries bring disputes to the WTO if they think their rights under the agreements are being infringed. Judgements by specially appointed independent experts are based on interpretations of the agreements and individual countries’ commitments.

Building trade capacity
WTO agreements contain special provision for developing countries, including longer time periods to implement agreements and commitments, measures to increase their trading opportunities, and support to help them build their trade capacity, to handle disputes and to implement technical standards. The WTO organizes hundreds of technical cooperation missions to developing countries annually. It also holds numerous courses each year in Geneva for government officials. Aid for Trade aims to help developing countries develop the skills and infrastructure needed to expand their trade.

Outreach
The WTO maintains regular dialogue with non-governmental organizations, parliamentarians, other international organizations, the media and the general public on various aspects of the WTO and the ongoing Doha negotiations, with the aim of enhancing cooperation and increasing awareness of WTO activities.

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