Published on 

Tánaiste welcomes appointment of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as new Director-General of the World Trade Organisation

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar has welcomed today’s (Monday 15th February) appointment of Nigerian economist, former Managing Director of the World Bank and former Finance Minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as the new Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

 Dr Okonjo-Iweala becomes the first female, and first African, to head the rule-making body for global trade.

“Ireland and the EU supported Dr Ngozi during the selection process and her appointment.

“As a small island economy at the heart of Europe, we owe our economic development to the free flow of trade and investment. This trade is possible thanks to international rules that are fair, enforceable, and fit for the future. At a time when many countries are looking inwards, Dr Ngozi and the WTO will be crucial in reinvigorating the global trading system.

“When I spoke with Dr Ngozi I was struck by her professionalism, her broad international experience and her deep appreciation of the political and economic challenges we face. Dr Ngozi has a clear view on the role of free trade in dealing with these challenges.

“And with a global pandemic still underway, the world trading system continues to play an important role in the global response, promoting post-pandemic recovery and overcoming global environmental challenges.

“Ireland and the EU look forward to working with Dr Ngozi to re-assert the important role of the WTO.”

Notes to Editor

  • The World Trade Organisation is the global rule-making body for international trade. The WTO:
    • negotiates agreements on various elements of trade e.g. on agriculture, international services, tariffs, ecommerce, customs procedures, etc.
    • monitors members’ compliance with trade agreements,
    • settles disputes between members about compliance with WTO rules.
  • The World Trade Organisation has 164 members ranging from major economies such as the EU, US and China to smaller economies such as Vanuatu, Ezwatini and Grenada.
  • Ireland joined the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the predecessor to the WTO, in 1967.
  • Within the WTO, Ireland’s share of world trade puts it on a par with countries such as Brazil, Australia and Thailand, and ahead of countries including Norway, Turkey and Vietnam. 
  • Ireland’s Peter Sutherland was DG of GATT from 1993 and was the founding DG of the WTO from 1995.
  • There is a broad view among members that the WTO need to undertake a programme of reform in many areas including: how disputes are settled; how the rules should apply to market economies and non-market economies; how developing countries should be given preferential treatment in trade agreements; and how trade can support other policy objectives including global health issues, environmental sustainability and quality of work.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) plays a key role in implementing the Government’s policies of stimulating the productive capacity of the economy and creating an environment which supports job creation and maintenance. The Department has lead responsibility for Irish policy on global trade and inward investment and a remit to promote fair competition in the marketplace, protect consumers and safeguard workers.

For further information please contact Press Office, D/Enterprise, Trade and Employment, or (01) 631-2200

If you no longer wish to receive emails from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment Press Office, please notify us by email to