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‘Trade Is A Force For Good’: Okonjo-Iweala Optimistic Of Landing WTO DG Job

Emmanuel Egobiambu With Agency Report  
Updated July 9, 2020
A file photo of former Nigerian finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
A file photo of former Nigerian finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

 

Former  Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is optimistic about becoming the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). 

Okonjo-Iweala in a video posted on her Twitter handle described the WTO as an organization that has become more important than ever.

According to her, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world needs to come together using trade to build a better society.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 May Push 45m People In Latin America Into Poverty – UN

“Trade is a force for good, and (if) properly harnessed can help lift millions out of poverty and bring shared prosperity,” she said. “The role of WTO is more vital than ever. Let’s fight for a WTO that works for all.”

She said COVID-19 has changed the face of world economy and thus the WTO needs to work with its members to pull through the difficult times.

President Muhammadu Buhari had nominated Okonjo-Iweala for the WTO DG role with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) later backing her nomination.

She will be vying for the post alongside five other candidates which include South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee; Kenya’s former foreign minister Amina Mohamed; Mexico’s former WTO deputy director-general Jesus Seade Kuri; Egyptian former diplomat Hamid Mamdouh; and former Moldovan foreign minister Tudor Ulianovsch.

The window to enter the race slams shut on Wednesday, in a sped-up contest to replace the outgoing WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo — the Brazilian career diplomat who is stepping down one year early at the end of August.

The successful candidate for the job will replace Mr Azevêdo who said he will step down on August 31.

In a surprise move in mid-May, Azevedo, 62, announced that he would end his second four-year term early for personal reasons, forcing the Geneva-based WTO’s 164 member states to come up with a successor in just three months instead of the usual nine.

Rather than an election, the procedure for selecting the next WTO boss relies on finding consensus, with candidates gradually being eliminated in turn.

A vote is possible as a measure of last resort, but that scenario has never occurred.

First African?

Of the directors-general since the WTO was created in 1995, three were from Europe, while one each came from Oceania, Asia and South America.

There has never been a WTO leader from Africa and the continent fancies its chances this time, even though there is no regional rotation principle at the global trade body.

However, African nations have so far failed to convene around a single candidate.

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