Director-General of the World Trade Organization

Director-General of the World Trade Organization
Okonjo-Iweala, Ngozi (2008 portrait).jpg
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Elect)

since 1 March 2021
World Trade Organization
Style Madam Director-General
Her Excellency
Status Chief Administrative Officer
Reports to General Council
Seat Centre William Rappard, Geneva, Switzerland
Appointer General Council
Term length Four years, renewable
Constituting instrument WTO Organization Chart
Formation 1 January 1995
First holder Peter Sutherland
Deputy Deputy Director-Generals

The director-general of the World Trade Organization is the officer of the World Trade Organization (WTO) responsible for supervising and directing the organization's administrative operations. Since the World Trade Organization's decisions are made by member states, through either a Ministerial Conference or through the General Council, the director-general has little power over matters of policy – the role is primarily advisory and managerial in nature. The director-general supervises the WTO secretariat of about 700 staff and is appointed by WTO members for a term of four years.[1]

The post of Director-General has been vacant since 31 August 2020,[2] after the resignation of Roberto Azevêdo of Brazil who had held the post since 1 September 2013.[3] On February 5, 2021, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria secured the support of the United States for Director-General of the WTO.[4] Okonjo-Iweala assumed office on 1 March 2021, and became both the first woman and the first African to hold this position.

Before the formation of the WTO, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) had a series of directors-general. Peter Sutherland was the last director-general of GATT and the first of the WTO.

List of Directors-General

This is a list of former holders of the office of Director-General. The post was created in 1995, although the earlier office of Executive Secretary is often seen as a direct equivalent.[5]

No. Portrait Director-General Term Home Country
Start End
Peter Sutherland
1 July 1993 30 April 1995 Republic of Ireland Ireland
Renato Ruggiero.jpg
Renato Ruggiero
1 May 1995 31 August 1999 Italy Italy
Mike Moore.jpg
Mike Moore
1 September 1999 31 August 2002 New Zealand New Zealand
Supachai Panitchpakdi.jpg
Supachai Panitchpakdi
(born 1946)
1 September 2002 31 August 2005 Thailand Thailand
Pascal Lamy, 2006.jpg
Pascal Lamy
(born 1947)
1 September 2005 31 August 2009 France France
1 September 2009 31 August 2013
Roberto Azevedo cropped.jpg
Roberto Azevêdo
(born 1957)
1 September 2013 31 August 2017 Brazil Brazil
1 September 2017 31 August 2020[6]
Okonjo-Iweala, Ngozi (2008 portrait).jpg
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala[7]
(born 1954)
1 March 2021
Nigeria Nigeria

2020 Director-General selection

In May 2020, Director-General Azevedo announced that he would step down on 31 August 2020, a year before his mandate was due to expire.[8] On 17 August 2020, human rights organizations urged the member nations to reject the nomination of Saudi Arabia's Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri, citing the country's poor human rights records.[9]

General Council Chair David Walker initiated a process of consultation with members from 7 September 2020 onwards, through which the field of candidates was gradually reduced until an appointment was to be made.[10] Eight candidates were put forward by WTO member governments to succeed Azevedo.[11]

The final selection required a consensus of the 164 member countries and was expected to take place in November, 2020.[12] However, due to "the health situation and current events" the meeting was postponed.[13][14]

Country Candidate Notes
Nigeria Nigeria Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Former Managing Director of the World Bank, Finance Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs [15]
Withdrawn on 5 February 2021 after consultation with major countries such as the United States[16]
South Korea South Korea Yoo Myung-hee Minister for Trade of South Korea [17][12]
Withdrawn on 6 October 2020 after the second round of consultations[18]
Kenya Kenya Amina C. Mohamed Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Heritage and Culture in Kenya
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri Minister ranked advisor at the Royal Court, ex-minister of Economy and Planning
United Kingdom United Kingdom Liam Fox Former Secretary of State for International Trade and Secretary of State for Defence in the UK
Withdrawn on 18 September 2020 after the first round of consultations[19]
Mexico Mexico Jesús Seade Kuri Undersecretary for North America for the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Egypt Egypt Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh Negotiator for Egypt and senior WTO official [20]
Moldova Moldova Tudor Ulianovschi Former Foreign Minister of Moldova


  1. ^ See document WT/L/509, accessible from
  2. ^ "WTO Director-General". World Trade Organization. 8 October 2020. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  3. ^ McClanahan, Paige (8 May 2013). "Roberto Azevêdo to be named new World Trade Organisation chief". Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  4. ^ "After being blocked by Trump, first African and woman takes WTO helm". POLITICO. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  5. ^ "Previous GATT and WTO Directors-General". WTO. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  6. ^ Emma Farge, Philip Blenkinsop (31 August 2020). "Damaged WTO now leaderless as chief Azevedo steps down". Reuters. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  7. ^ "After being blocked by Trump, first African and woman takes WTO helm". POLITICO. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  8. ^ "WTO chief Roberto Azevêdo to step down early". The Financial Times. 14 May 2020.
  9. ^ "World Trade Organization Urged to Reject Saudi Arabia's Nominee for WTO Director General". Freedom Forward. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  10. ^ "WTO Director-General: Roberto Azevêdo". Archived from the original on 13 October 2020. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  11. ^ "Candidates for DG selection process 2020". WHO. Archived from the original on 9 October 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Moon, allies intensify campaign for Yoo Myung-hee to head WTO". Joongang Daily. 12 October 2020. Archived from the original on 13 October 2020.
  13. ^ "General Council meeting on DG selection postponed".
  14. ^ "APPOINTMENT OF THE NEXT DIRECTOR-GENERAL - COMMUNICATION FROM THE GENERAL COUNCIL CHAIR, H.E. DR DAVID WALKER". 7 November 2020. Archived from the original on 18 November 2020.
  15. ^ "Okonjo-Iweala Advances to Final Round of WTO Leadership". The African Media. 7 October 2020. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  16. ^ "WTO: South Korea's Yoo Myung-hee withdraws from director general race, clearing path for Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala". South China Morning Post. 5 February 2021.
  17. ^ "S. Korea's Trade Minister Declares Bid to Run for WTO Chief". Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  18. ^ "Nigerian, South Korean make last round of WTO chief race - sources". Reuters. 8 October 2020.
  19. ^ "Dr Liam Fox through to 2nd round in WTO Director General contest". Department for International Trade. 18 September 2020.
  20. ^ "Mr Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh Biography" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 September 2020.

External links