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‘I believe I have the skills to lead the World Trade Organization’ – Okonjo-Iweala

By Vincent UFUOMA


Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has expressed her optimism to lead the World Trade Organisation (WTO), citing her skills and experiences for the past 30 years as qualification.

In an interview with Manuela Saragosa of BBC Business Day, the Nigerian-born renowned economist said she believes in the power of trade to change the world and the WTO has a role to play irrespective of the challenges.

She said that she is prepared to lead the necessary reforms that will position the multilateral organisation in a forefront of solving problems most especially in a time when the world is still being ravaged by COVID-19.

“I believe the World Trade Organisation is one of the most important multilateral bodies in the world. And despite the challenges it faces and the reforms that need to be done, I believe it is very relevant for the economic development and growth and the sharing of prosperity in the world.

“I want the job because I think I have the skills for it. I think the organisation needs some reforms to make it relevant for the times we are and to make it fit for purpose.

“I have a reputation as a strong reformer. I have written a book titled; Reforming the Unreformable, where with a team, we undertook very important reforms in Nigeria.

“I am also a strong person with strong negotiation skills. I have had a career for over 30years. I have constantly being involved in negotiating important agreements between two countries,”

When asked how she intends to use her negotiation skills to foster trade harmony between the United States and China, in the wake of the trade war between the two countries, she said with the help of other countries, she will bring the two countries together to identify their areas of common interests.

“I think what is involved is being a good listener. It is important to listen. What are the concerns of the Americans? What are the concerns of China? What are the concerns of Europe? What are the concerns of Africa, Asia and other member countries and try to bring them around shared common interests.

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“I strongly believe that this world we live in today, we need a fora where we can bring common interests together. In spite of the words you hear, I think there is a need to bring people together to build trust around shared common interests,” she said.

She said having an African at the top job of the WTO is extremely important as it will position the continent to benefit from the world trading system and to also reposition the continent’s economy which is about 3 per cent  of the world trade.

“For Africa, this is extremely important. Africa has never held the job. Africa countries feel that they can also benefit from the world trading system. Africa has negotiated a monumental agreement. They have an Africa continent free trade agreement to strengthen the economies of the continent to enable them to trade better with each other. To enable them to face the world trading system. Africa trade now is about 3 per cent of the world trade.

“I think having an African at the WTO is something that would benefit not just Africa but the intention I have is to make sure that all parts of the world benefits,” she said.

President Muhammadu Buhari, had earlier nominated Dr. Okonjo-Iweala earlier this month as the country’s nominee for the WTO DG election after he withdrew the nomination of the current deputy Director General of WTO, Yonov Frederick Agah.

The election which is scheduled to be held in Geneva, Switzerland in 2021, has so far officially seen the nomination of three candidates vying for the WTO job. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh of Egypt and a Mexican representative, Jesús Seade Kuri.

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