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Former U.S. Officials urge Biden to Back WTO's selection of Okonjo-Iweala

Attached Photo of: Former U.S. Officials urge Biden to Back WTO's selection of Okonjo-Iweala

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

The Hon. Mimi Alemayehou

Former Executive Vice President, U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)

Former U.S. Executive Director of the African Development Bank

Ambassador Johnnie Carson

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs

Former U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda

Teresa Clarke

Chairman and CEO,

Ambassador Herman J. "Hank" Cohen

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

President & CEO, Cohen and Woods International

Akunna Cook

Former U.S. Foreign Service Officer

Founder and Principal, Drake Road Strategies

John G. Coumantaros

Chairman of Flour Mills of Nigeria

Chairman CEO of Southern Star Shipping Co Inc (New York)

Founding Member of US Nigeria Council

Ambassador 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 Resources

The 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, USAID

The Hon. Lauri Fitz-Pegado

Former Assistant Secretary

Director General, U.S. Foreign Commercial Service

Melvin Foote

President & CEO, Constituency for Africa

The Hon. Tony Fratto

Former Assistant Secretary, U.S. Treasury

Former White House Deputy Press Secretary

Managing Partner Hamilton Place Strategies

Ambassador 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 LLC

Ambassador Michelle D. Gavin

Former U.S. Ambassador to Botswana

Former Senior Director for Africa, National Security Council

Dr. 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 Group

Cameron Hudson

Former Director, African Affairs, National Security Council

Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council Africa Center

Ambassador 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 Swaziland

Ambassador (ret.) Howard F. Jeter

Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and Botswana

Former Special Presidential Envoy to Liberia

Jeffrey Krilla

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State

Florie 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 Council

Ambassador (ret.) Terence P. McCulley

Former U.S. Ambassador to Mali, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire

Chairman, US-Nigeria Council for Food Security, Trade and Investment

Mora McLean

President Emerita, Historian, and Program Strategist, The Africa-America Institute

Former Chair, USTR Trade Advisory Committee on Africa

Cheryl Mills

Former Counselor and Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of State

Former Deputy Counsel to the President, The White House

Todd Moss, PhD

Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State

Ambassador John Negroponte

First Director, National Intelligence

Former Ambassador to the United Nations

Former Deputy Secretary of State

The Hon. Constance Berry Newman

Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

Chair of the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network

Thomas 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 Stanley

Bernadette Paolo

Former Staff Director, U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa

Co-founder & Former CEO, The Africa Society

Bobby 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 House

Pearl Robinson

Associate Professor, Tufts University

Past President, The African Studies Association

Ambassador 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


Jeannine 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 Bank

Timothy Shortley

Former Director, African Affairs, National Security Council

Chief Operating Officer, 50 Ventures, LLC

Ambassador 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 Africa

The Hon. Gayle Smith

Former Administrator, USAID

Former Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for African Affairs, National Security Council

Joseph 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, 2001

Rosa Whitaker

Former Assistant United States Trade Representative for Africa

President, The Whitaker Group

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