Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala assumes control over the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Monday in the midst of expectation that she will inspire the besieged body into tackling its enormous difficulties, which include the pandemic-fuelled worldwide economic crisis.
Okonjo-Iweala, the first woman and first African to ever lead the global trade body revealed to Agence France-Presse (AFP) a day after her appointment a month ago.
She said, “The WTO is too important to allow it to be slowed down, paralysed and moribund.”
The 66-year-old Nigerian ex-finance minister takes over after the WTO was left disoriented for seven months following the abrupt takeoff of Brazilian career ambassador, Roberto Azevedo last August, a year ahead of schedule.
After an extensive selection process, development economist Okonjo-Iweala, who spent 25 years at the World Bank, was eventually appointed by the WTO’s 164 members on February 15.
Initially, there were eight candidates; she was clearly favoured among the last two standing in November. Though, her appointment was postponed by former US President Donald Trump delaying her nomination.
The current US President, Joe Biden made it possible for Okonjo-Iweala to get the agreement backing needed to end the blockage.
In at the profound end, she is wasting no time, with her first day at work in Geneva, agreeing to the yearly meeting of the WTO’s General Council.
Delegates are required to reach an agreement that the organisation’s next ministerial meeting, which had been planned for last year, but was adjourned because of the pandemic, will be held in Geneva in December.
The inquiry remains if the new WTO boss, believed a strong-minded leader, will be able to shape the organisation in her image at that time.
However, some observers are confident that Okonjo-Iweala will instill the necessary energy; others stated that she has little squirm space to make dramatic transformation, given that WTO decisions are made by member states, and just when they can arrive at an agreement.
One of her first duties will be to appoint four new deputy directors to help renew the organisation’s negotiating mechanisms.
Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that one of her main goals is to push long-blocked trade talks on fishery subsidies across the finish line in time for the ministerial conference, but with dialogues delaying, that could be a difficult sell.
Also, amidst a worldwide economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, she has a lot of other important work to deal with.
Okonjo-Iweala is concerned about mounting protectionism and nationalism during the coronavirus crisis and demands trade barriers should be brought down to assist the world with recovering.
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