FORMER finance minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has made her pitch before the general assembly of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) detailing why she should be selected as its next director-general pointing out that if appointed she would rejuvenate the body.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala, 65, is one of seven candidates seeking to be named as the next WTO boos in September and under its rules, they all have to make their case before the general assembly. Rather than an election, the WTO selection procedure relies on finding consensus, with candidates gradually being eliminated in turn.
Speaking after presenting her case, Dr Okonjo-Iweala said: “The WTO director-general has no direct decision-making authority but can work to make things move along with influence and that influence can be proactive. That is the kind of director-general that I intend to be if I am selected, to proactively work with members, to deliver outcomes, to show that the WTO is back and is rejuvenated.
“This organisation has never had a woman or an African as director-general but my insistence is that choosing a head for the WTO should be on merit, as the best person to lead the institution should be chosen. Now, I will say to them, if that person happens to be a woman, let it be, if she happens to be an African, so be it.”
While noting that micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSME’s) have been bruised by the Covid-19 pandemic, she stressed the need for discussions on how to integrate such businesses in the multilateral trading system, which is very important. Dr Okonjo-Iweala also faulted the insinuation that she does not have experience in trade negotiations.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala added: “We need to make sure that for MSME’s to survive, they should have adequate liquidity to keep their businesses going. My worry is that there have been countries globally who have been able to make this liquidity available to their MSMEs and there are others, like many developing countries and least developed countries who have not.
“One of my roles as African Union envoy, with my other five colleagues, has been to see how we can facilitate and encourage additional resources from outside and inside to these MSMEs, so that they can regain their position and be able to stand, not only to keep jobs but to thrive in the future and create more jobs. I think it is a very important sector and the WTO would work hard to make sure such types of enterprises are supported.”
Responding to a question on what she would be saying to US President Donald Trump or the US president-elect to convince the country not to exit the WTO, Dr Okonjo-Iweala, said she would remind him that it brings prosperity to all nations. According to her, the WTO delivered for all countries, including the US in the past.
“It is because of the multilateral rules-based trading system that we have had prosperity and the lifting of millions out of poverty and it has brought about shared prosperity and we could do it again. I would say to him, where the trading system has failed, we need to fix it so that it can be more inclusive and can benefit more people,” Dr Okonjo-Iweala added.