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Biden backs Nigerian leader as first woman to head WTO, reverses Trump stand

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The Joe Biden administration has ended the deadlock over the next head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) by come out in strong support of Nigeria's ex-finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the post, according to a BBC report. The move reverses the Trump administration's stand, opposing her candidacy.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was frontrunner for the post until the Trump administration last October said it wanted another woman, South Korea's Yoo Myung-hee. Ms Yoo has now withdrawn her candidacy.

If confirmed in the role, Dr Okonjo-Iweala would be the first woman and the first African to lead the WTO.

President Donald Trump – who had described the WTO as "horrible" and biased towards China – wanted Ms Yoo, South Korea's trade minister as the new chief.

Ms Yoo on Friday said her decision to withdraw her candidacy was made in "close consultation" with the US. She said: "South Korea will actively contribute to reaching consensus for the next WTO chief and co-operate with her and participate in the WTO reform process."

A WTO nominations committee in October recommended its 164 members appoint Dr Okonjo-Iweala as a replacement to outgoing chief Roberto Azevedo; a spokesman at the time said all had approved the appointment "except for one".

Dr Okonjo-Iweala on Friday praised her rival for the post and said: "There is vital work ahead to do together."