Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala‘s path to becoming the first woman and the first African to lead the World Trade Organization after South Korea’s candidate pulled out of the race  has been cleared.

Yoo Myung-hee, the South Korean trade minister, made her decision known on Friday.

Okonjo-Iweala, an economist and former finance minister of Nigeria, has the support of the Nigerian Government and WTO members, including the European Union, China, Japan and Australia.

According to Yoo her decision is hinged on “close consultation” with the United States.

The Geneva-based body, saddled with the responsibility of promoting free trade, has been without a permanent Director General since Roberto Azevêdo stepped down after the WTO was caught in the middle of an escalating trade fight between the United States and China.

Okonjo-Iweala, who hails from one of the few parts of the world where free trade is ascendent, told CNN in August that trade would play an important role in the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.”The WTO needs a leader at this time. It needs a fresh look, a fresh face, an outsider, someone with the capability to implement reforms and to work with members to make sure the WTO comes out of the partial paralysis that it’s in,” she said in an interview.

Okonjo-Iweala spent 25 years at the World Bank as a development economist, rising to the position of managing director. She also chaired the board of Gavi, which is helping to distribute coronavirus vaccines globally, stepping down at the end of her term in December.

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