Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has spoken about her plans for the World Trade Organization, which she hopes to implement if she is named the body’s new Director-General. She did this at the formal presentation of the candidates vying for the position, a process that commenced on Wednesday.
The sessions will last until Friday and will allow each candidate to pitch their plan for the WTO to its members.
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Speaking at a media briefing after Wednesday’s session, Okonjo-Iweala said that if she was selected for the job, she would work to rejuvenate the WTO and strengthen its influence over global trade and commerce.
She noted that the organization required a proactive leader who would work with member states to achieve widely beneficial outcomes.
The former Nigerian finance minister also spoke about helping MSMEs around the world to survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. She hinted that she would be rallying support from within and outside affected businesses, to enable them to thrive.
Addressing the strained relations between the United States and the WTO, Okonjo-Iweala said she would persuade the country to remain in the organization. She expressed her intention to remedy the faults that had caused member states to distrust the body.
Presented with criticisms that she didn’t have enough experience with trade negotiations, she insisted that she had been involved in trade policymaking and agreements throughout her career at the World Bank and role as Nigeria’s finance minister.
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She also said that despite being a likely first African and female WTO Director-General, she would prefer that the position be filled on merit.
Okonjo-Iweala, who has the support of Nigeria, is one of eight persons in the running for the position. The others include Egypt’s former foreign minister, Hamid Mamdouh; and Kenyan and former WTO Council Chair, Amina Mohamed.
Others are former UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox; former Moldovan foreign minister, Tudor Ulianovshi; South Korea’s trade minister Yoo Myung-hee; and Saudi Arabia’s former economy minister, Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri. Jesus Seade Kuri, the Mexican former WTO Deputy Director-General completes the list of contestants.
They will have the chance to campaign for the post of Director-General until September 7. Thereafter, a two-month elimination round will ensue, at the end of which a new Director-General will be chosen.
The outgoing occupant of that position is Brazilian Roberto Azevedo. His tenure was due to end in 2021. His decision to step down 12 months early has triggered the ongoing exercise aimed at replacing him.
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