BY EMEKA EJERE
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the newly-elected Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), will assume duties today.
Okonjo-Iweala was selected by the General Council of the WTO a fortnight ago, as the organisation’s seventh director-general.
With her emergence as the first African and first female to be the Director-General of the WTO, the former Nigeria’s two-term Finance Minister had unveiled her agenda, which included working with other members of the organisation in reforming and rebranding the global trade body.
Okonjo-Iweala, had in her acceptance speech, also highlighted the need for procedural reforms so that the WTO would better serve its members.
Her term which is renewable, will expire on August 31, 2025.
According to her, the rule book of the Geneva-based organisation is outdated, while its rules lag behind those of some regional and bilateral trade agreements, which are incorporating many innovations.
Okonjo-Iweala had stated that the WTO’s rulebook must be updated to take into account 21st century realities such as e-commerce and the digital economy.
She said: “It has been a long and tough road, full of uncertainty, but now it is the dawn of a new day and the real work can begin.
“Some WTO rules and procedures also need to be revisited, including the procedure for appointing director-general.”
According to her, the WTO secretariat should be strengthened, to enable it to provide cutting-edge services to members.
She had explained: “An important change would be to move away from the current silo way of working, to a more team-based and task-based approach.
“The secretariat has to be fit-for-purpose to take account of the changing dynamics of the global economy and priorities of members.
“The challenges facing the WTO are numerous and tricky, but they are not insurmountable. There is hope, there is light at the end of the tunnel if we work together in a transparent manner that builds trust, build bridges and diffuses political tension and encourages convergence.”