A cross-section of former senior U.S. government officials, including a Nobel Laureate, along with academicians and civil society leaders, have written to President Biden in support of the election of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director-General of the World Trade Organization. Opposition from the Trump administration has stalled her selection which requires consensus according to WTO procedures. Here is the text of the letter that was delivered after Biden took office on January 20.
Dear President Biden,
Congratulations on your resounding victory in the recent election. We are confident that as you assume the mantle of responsibility for America’s security, economy and overall well-being that promising days are ahead for our country and specifically for all Americans.
You assume the Presidency with challenges and opportunities of historic proportions. We are pleased, however, that you have long been tested, prepared and poised for this moment. We are further comforted that you have selected a very competent team to support your cherished vision for our nation.
Among the many critical matters before you and your cabinet is the leadership of the World Trade Organization (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 outgoing 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.
Dr. 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.
Her specific qualifications:
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. 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. She served two terms as finance and coordinating minister of the economy of Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy. In those roles, she was a reformer who led the effort to create a long-term macroeconomic stability fund from the nation’s oil revenues, and to ensure that bilateral debt restructuring was tied to internal economic reforms. Thus, she knows well how to take on entrenched interests.
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 organization into the future.
We deeply appreciate any consideration you may provide to her candidacy which is critically important for our nation and the world.
Former Senior U.S. Government Officials & Leaders in Academia, Civil Society and The Private Sector
he Hon. Mimi Alemayehou Former Executive Vice President, U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) Former U.S. Executive Director of the African Development BankAmbassador Johnnie Carson Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs Former U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Zimbabwe, and UgandaTeresa Clarke Chairman and CEO, Africa.comAmbassador Herman J. “Hank” Cohen Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs President & CEO, Cohen and Woods InternationalAkunna Cook Former U.S. Foreign Service Officer Founder and Principal, Drake Road StrategiesJohn G. Coumantaros Chairman of Flour Mills of Nigeria Chairman CEO of Southern Star Shipping Co Inc (New York) Founding Member of US Nigeria CouncilAmbassador 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 ResourcesThe 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, USAIDThe Hon. Lauri Fitz-Pegado Former Assistant Secretary Director General, U.S. Foreign Commercial ServiceMelvin Foote President & CEO, Constituency for AfricaThe Hon. Tony Fratto Former Assistant Secretary, U.S. Treasury Former White House Deputy Press Secretary Managing Partner Hamilton Place StrategiesAmbassador 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 LLCAmbassador Michelle D. Gavin Former U.S. Ambassador to Botswana Former Senior Director for Africa, National Security CouncilDr. 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 GroupCameron Hudson Former Director, African Affairs, National Security Council Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council Africa CenterAmbassador 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 SwazilandAmbassador (ret.) Howard F. Jeter Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and Botswana Former Special Presidential Envoy to LiberiaJeffrey Krilla Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of StateFlorie 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 CouncilAmbassador (ret.) Terence P. McCulley Former U.S. Ambassador to Mali, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire Chairman, US-Nigeria Council for Food Security, Trade and InvestmentMora McLean President Emerita, Historian, and Program Strategist, The Africa-America Institute Former Chair, USTR Trade Advisory Committee on AfricaCheryl Mills Former Counselor and Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of State Former Deputy Counsel to the President, The White HouseTodd Moss, PhD Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of StateAmbassador John Negroponte First Director, National Intelligence Former Ambassador to the United Nations Former Deputy Secretary of StateThe Hon. Constance Berry Newman Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Chair of the African Renaissance and Diaspora NetworkThomas 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 StanleyBernadette Paolo Former Staff Director, U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa Co-founder & Former CEO, The Africa SocietyBobby 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 HousePearl Robinson Associate Professor, Tufts University Past President, The African Studies AssociationAmbassador 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-FEEEDSJeannine 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 BankTimothy Shortley Former Director, African Affairs, National Security Council Chief Operating Officer, 50 Ventures, LLCAmbassador 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 AfricaThe Hon. Gayle Smith Former Administrator, USAID Former Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for African Affairs, National Security CouncilJoseph 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, 2001Rosa Whitaker Former Assistant United States Trade Representative for Africa President, The Whitaker Group
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