Former Nigerian Finance Minister and leading candidate for the post of Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has announced her plan to lead a global trade organization aimed at bringing shared prosperity to all its members.
In her statement to the General Council on Wednesday, Okonjo-Iweala said: "We need a WTO that works for the benefit of all members, regardless of their size or level of economic development.LDCs and small vulnerable economies should be given the opportunity to participate in regional and global supply chains to strengthen their presence in the trading system.
"It should also respond to the challenge of facilitating greater participation of women in international trade, particularly in developing countries, where greater efforts should be made to bring women-owned enterprises into the formal sector.
"Given the wide range of challenges facing the global economy, including COVID-19, there is a need for coherence in the policy responses of relevant international organizations, including FAO, the World Bank, IMF, IFC, regional development banks and WHO and the United Nations system. As noted by the G-20 Panel of Eminent Persons, institutions sometimes work with 10 opposing goals.
"If selected, I will deepen working relationships with all relevant institutions to create synergies and coordinate members' support.
He said that the impasse in the multilateral trade negotiations has led many members in recent years to launch plurilateral negotiations to move certain issues forward.
"The energy generated by these discussions has helped to refocus attention on the WTO, and it would be best if these negotiations produced results that would strengthen the multilateral trading system. Members have also concluded regional trade agreements to ensure market access and to address issues that are not adequately addressed in the WTO or are not part of the multilateral rules.
"Regional trade agreements can complement multilateral efforts, and their success in addressing new and traditional issues should inspire WTO members to do the same.But despite their advantages, RTAs cannot be a perfect substitute for the WTO to ensure that world trade and markets remain open and continue to expand. Their convening power and ability to provide a unique forum where countries can come together around common interests remains crucial and indeed indispensable.
"If the WTO did not exist, we would have to invent it.Given the interdependence of the world's economies, a collective response to current and emerging challenges will always be stronger than individual responses.As we put it in my language Igbo: Aka nni Kwo aka ekpe, aka ekepe akwo akanni wancha adi ocha (When the right hand washes the left hand and the left hand washes the right hand, both are cleaned).
"I have negotiated numerous agreements that have led to beneficial results for everyone.I have the ability to effectively engage governments and other stakeholders and to build consensus in areas of common interest.
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