Nigeria’s candidate in the election for a new director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has disclosed her willingness to listen to concerns raised by the United States and China to help both parties reach an agreement.
Okonjo-Iweala, who sits on the board of Twitter and chairs the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), told POLITICO that she would be the listener-in-chief and mediator to convince both parties that it would be in their best interests to mend fences.
US President Donald Trump had criticised the WTO for being too soft with China arguing that the Asian country is wrong to label itself a developing country.
The WTO allows member countries to decide whether they qualify as developing countries which makes certain conditions available to them.
“The US and China are the two largest economies in the world. I know that they both believe in trade. Both China and the US have an interest in seeing the WTO go on,” she said, adding that her experience as a two-time minister of finance in Nigeria has furnished her with skills to broker deals.
“They want people to listen, they want someone who can listen carefully to what their issues are, what it is they want to see improved in the WTO.”
She said the debate about what developed and developing countries get out of the global trading system has to be held because “the developed country members feel they have borne the burden of liberalization and maybe the advanced developing countries should bear more. The least developed countries feel they could benefit more from the system”.
The former managing director (operations) at the World Bank also said the WTO needs to be brought up to date to address emerging trends.
“The WTO needs to be brought up to the 21st century. Some of the rules are outdated and they don’t reflect the significant developments in the global economy.
“Issues such as the digital economy, competition policy, investment, climate change and environment, they all need to be addressed.”
After her nomination, Egypt wrote to the candidature committee asking that its candidate, Hamid Mamdouh, be the only recognised candidate out of Africa.
Okonjo-Iweala, however, said Nigeria wants the same thing as the African Union — which is to present the best African candidate.
She also opined that trade, not aid, is the way of lifting countries out of poverty.
The WTO was thrown in a turmoil after Roberto Azevedo, its former director-general, announced that he would step down a year before his tenure ended.
Mexico’s Jesús Seade Kuri is also a contender in the election.