As she intensifies effort to clinch the WTO top job, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former minister of finance, has said she would ensure there is synergy, collaboration and shared prosperity among member-states if selected.
She stated this in her statement to the general council, Wednesday. She said: “We must have a WTO that works for the benefit of all members regardless of size or level of economic development. LDCs and small vulnerable economies (SVEs) should have opportunities to participate in regional and global supply chains to enhance their presence in the trading system.
“It should also be responsive to the challenge of facilitating the greater participation of women in international trade, particularly in developing countries, where greater efforts should be made to include women-owned enterprises in the formal sector. Considering the plethora of challenges facing the global economy, including COVID-19, there is need for coherence in the policy responses of relevant international organisations, including the FAO, World Bank, IMF, IFC, the regional development banks and WHO and UN System. As noted by the G20 Eminent Persons Group, institutions sometimes work at 10 cross purposes.
“If selected, I will deepen the working relationships with all relevant institutions to create synergies and coordinate support to Members.“ She said that the stalemate in multilateral trade negotiations has led many Members in recent years to embark on plurilateral negotiations to advance particular issues. “The energy associated with those discussions has helped refocus attention on the WTO and would be best if these negotiations could produce outcomes that reinforce the multilateral trading system.
Members have also entered into regional trade agreements to secure access to markets, tackle issues that are not sufficiently addressed in the WTO or that are not part of the multilateral rulebook.
“RTAs can complement multilateral efforts, and their success in tackling new and traditional issues should inspire WTO Members to do likewise. But despite their benefits, RTAs cannot be a perfect substitute for the WTO is needed to ensure that trade and global markets remain open and are further extended. Its convening power and ability to provide a unique forum where countries can come together around shared interests is still vital and, in fact, indispensable”.
If the WTO did not exist, we would have to invent it. Given the interconnectedness 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 Igbo language, Aka nni Kwo aka ekpe, aka ekepe akwo akanni wancha adi ocha (If the right hand washes the left hand, and the left-hand washes the right hand, then both become clean).