Biden clears way for new WTO director following Trump block

Biden clears way for new WTO director following Trump block
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President BidenJoe BidenObama: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE on Friday threw his weight behind former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's candidacy to become the next Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the first woman to lead the WTO.

In October, then-President TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report MORE threw a wrench into Okonjo-Iweala's candidacy by supporting a competing candidate, South Korea's Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee.

Because the WTO makes decisions by consensus, the U.S. decision to support another candidate delayed action, despite broad support among the organization's 164 members.


The position has remained open — run by four deputies — since Brazil's Roberto Azevedo stepped down in August.

Trump's decision further delayed the WTO from filling the position as expected in its November meeting.

On Friday, following discussions with the U.S., Yoo withdrew her candidacy, after which the Biden administration expressed "strong support" for Okonjo-Iweala.

"Dr. Okonjo-Iweala brings a wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy from her 25 years with the World Bank and two terms as Nigerian Finance Minister," the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) said in a statement.

"She is widely respected for her effective leadership and has proven experience managing a large international organization with a diverse membership."

The USTR also noted that the historic contest for the position, which came down to two female candidates, was the first time any woman had reached the final round of consideration.

The decision may be a turning point for the WTO after four years of ire from Trump, who accused it of being too pro-China.

Throughout his administration, Trump gummed up the organization's functions by blocking appointments to its appeals panel.