Nigeria’s WTO candidate Okonjo-Iweala urges US not to quit trade organisation
Nigeria’s ex-finance minister and World Bank managing director, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has urged the United States (US) President Donald Trump or his successor not to leave the World Trade Organization (WTO), saying reforms were possible.
Okonjo-Iweala, who is Nigeria’s candidate to head the WTO told the US president “Don’t leave now. Let’s try to fix what needs fixing,” at a news briefing in Geneva.
“Surely it’s not the time now to leave a WTO that matters. We need an institution that can promote a rules-based system…,” former Nigeria’s minister of finance told journalists when asked for her message to the current U.S. president or any future one.
Washington has been a regular critic of the WTO and is along with other members is urging reforms to its 25-year-old global trade rule book. It has also blocked appointments to its top appeals court, paralysing its functions.
However, despite Trump’s plans to leave another Geneva-based body, the World Health Organization (WTO), over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. government sources say his administration remains committed to reforming the WTO, not abandoning it altogether.
Meanwhile, candidates to lead the Geneva-based organisation urged members to reach a decision quickly and address what one described as a “deep crisis” as it began the vetting process.
Nominations from eight countries have been submitted, including three women, three African candidates and a former Saudi air force pilot, to replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo, who will step down a year early at the end of August.
His successor faces an unprecedented set of challenges such as intensifying global trade tensions, rising protectionism as well as a coronavirus-induced dive in global trade.
“This needs to be done as quick as possible,” said Jesus Seade, a senior trade official in Mexico, describing the trade watchdog as being in “deep crisis”.
Seade also rebuffed a suggestion that a final decision on the next chief should be delayed until after the U.S. presidential election in November.
Nigeria’s candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, also said she hoped members would make a quick decision, saying the world was at an “uncertain juncture” due to the pandemic.