OPINION: WTO DG – WHO THE CAP FITS

August 1, 2020
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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Legendary Bob Marley, in one of his reggae songs, belted, “He who the cap fits, let them wear it”.

With her clout and pedigree, it is no gainsaying the gigantic cap of the DG of the World Trade Organization (WTO) fits none other than Nigeria’s Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. This became evident reading her final presentation to the WTO’s Governing Council during the first phase of the screening exercise where she elucidated her plans to move WTO to greater heights.

Nothing beats putting a round peg in a round hole. Okonjo-Iweala proved her mettle in identifying some of the challenges that presently bedevil the WTO. Knowing the role the apex organisation plays in global trade through designing mechanisms to foster transparency, predictability and stability in the multilateral trading system (MTS) as well as monitoring trade developments, promoting exchanges and building trust, she expressed her concern about how paralysed WTO appears at a time “when its rule book would greatly benefit from an update to 21st-century issues”.

She also expressed her intention to resolve agelong issues such as transparency, the inclusion of medium enterprises (MSMEs), standardising best practices, and resolving the trade tensions among member countries.

As a strong believer in the role of trade, Okonjo-Iweala knows that renewing and improving the WTO will require recalling the core objectives and principles on which the MTS was built such as the value of open trade, competition and non-discrimination. She also expresses her commitment to building trust among the members leveraging on her past experiences in dealing with high political stakes.

Her 25-year career at the highest echelons of the World Bank has no doubt prepared her for a time like this. Little wonder her vision for the WTO is that of an organization where “members coalesce around the capacity of trade to help foster economic growth and sustainable development”. With her, we can be guaranteed of a WTO devoid of mistrust, where members can work in concert for collective progress.

Okonjo-Iweala is poised to head a rejuvenated WTO with confidence to tackle lingering issues. As the head of the World Trade Organisation, she has promised a refreshed organisation that will find solutions to whatever disputes may occur among members without delay.

While acknowledging the impact and damage COVID-19 has inflicted on the global economy, she maintained that as Director-General of the trade organisation, she would use her office to work with relevant organizations to marshal responses to contain the impact of coronavirus.

With Dr Okonjo-Iweala we can be sure that her more than 30 years expertise in developmental economic in multi-national organisations will prove pivotal to moving the WTO to its next level. She has shown she is a firm believer in the power of trade to lift developing countries out of poverty to robust economic growth and sustainable development. It is no surprise then that many African leaders are routing for her candidacy for this coveted position of WTO Director-General.

Having an Okonjo-Iweala piloting the affairs of the World Trade Organization at this precarious time would also be a real boon for the continent. As such, it behoves other African leaders who are yet to identify with her nomination to do so now.

Without mincing words, the cap of the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation fits her and, with all she has to offer judging by her presentation before the WTO governing council, it is one she will certainly wear well.

*** Dave Agboola believes in the power of pen to address issues from whatever angle. He is into freelance writing and editing alongside his administrative skills.

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