Nigeria’s ex-Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a step closer to becoming the next director general of the World Trade Organisation after receiving US backing for the role.

Yoo Myung-hee, Trade Minister for the Republic of Korea withdrew her candidacy on Friday, saying the future of the WTO had become “uncertain” after the prolonged leadership battle. This removed the last significant barrier in Okonjo-Iweala’s campaign, with the WTO now expected to formalise her appointment.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala spent 25 years with the World Bank, as Managing Director, she had oversight responsibility for the $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia. She also twice served as Finance Minister in Nigeria.

The US trade representative’s office said, in its first public statement under the Biden-Harris administration, that the country was “pleased to express its strong support for the candidacy of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next director-general of the WTO”.

They added: “she is widely respected for her effective leadership and has proven experience managing a large international organisation with a diverse membership.”

The backing of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala opposes the stance taken under the Trump administration, whose support for Yoo had defied several other member states. The new administration also congratulated Minister Yoo Myung-hee on her strong campaign for this position.

It is the first time that any woman has made it to this stage in the history of the institution.