Okonjo-Iweala Begs United States Not to Quit WTO
By Adedapo Adesanya
In her bid to occupy the position of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has called on the United States not to leave the trade body. Rather, she said the world power should leave room for reforms.
The former minister of finance in Nigeria, who is one of the eight candidates vying for the position, said “I would say to the President (of the US) that the WTO delivered for all countries, including the United States in the past.”
“It is because of the multilateral rules-based trading system that we have had prosperity and lifting of millions out of poverty, and it’s been shared prosperity.
“We could do it again. I would say to him that where the trading system has failed, we need to fix it so that it can be more inclusive, it can benefit more people.
“Surely, it is not the time now to leave the WTO that matters, we need an institution that can promote a rules-based system. Remember the trade wars of the past — we don’t want that.
“We want peace, security, and stability. That is why the WTO is needed, with its ability to arbitrate disputes within members.
“Don’t leave now, let’s try to fix what needs fixing, and if we didn’t have the WTO, we would have to invent it. That is what I would say to him,” Mrs Okonjo-Iweala noted.
The United States has recently been at loggerheads with the trade body. Two years ago, President Donald Trump said he was going to lead his country out of the organisation because it was being treated unfairly.
Mr Trump said the body often rules against the US, claiming that it was set up “to benefit everybody but us”, adding that, “We lose the lawsuits, almost all of the lawsuits in the WTO.”
The US, along with other members, is calling for reforms to its 25-year-old global trade rule book and has also blocked appointments to its top appeals court, paralysing its functions.
In May, the DG of the organisation, Mr Robert Azevedo, announced his resignation from the position effective August 31 after seven years at the helm.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala said that if selected as DG, she will be very keen to aid trade which involves technical assistance, capacity building, and working with other organisations such as the World Banks, regional development banks, and be able to deliver to countries what they need to improve the investments within their borders.
“So that they can process their goods more, create more jobs, and have more to trade, that is what I would be doing to make sure the south improves its position and benefits from the multilateral trading system,” she said.
Egypt, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom are the countries aiming for the position.
Candidates are currently meeting with WTO members at a special General Council meeting between on July 15 and 17 to present their views and take questions from the membership.
Since no new Director-General will be selected by 1 September, pursuant to the 2002 procedures, the General Council “shall designate one of the existing Deputy Directors-General to serve as Acting Director-General until the appointment of a new Director-General.”
The four Deputy Directors-General are Mr Yonov Frederick Agah (Nigeria), Mr Karl Brauner (Germany), Mr Alan Wolff (US), and Mr Yi Xiaozhun (China).