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WTO’s first African director-general can help rebalance global trade

First woman to head WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

WTO members made history February 15, 2021 when the General Council agreed by consensus to select Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria as the organization’s seventh Director-General

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | Xinhua | The appointment of Nigeria-born Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the first African director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) can help rebalance global trade, an Ethiopian expert said Wednesday.

The WTO is one of the key institutions of the UN system. Recently the WTO has been facing a lot of difficulties, as former U.S. President Donald Trump acted unilaterally due to the dispute the United States had with other countries, especially on trade negotiations, said Costantinos Bt. Costantinos, economic advisor to the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Therefore, the WTO couldn’t have any leverage as an arbiter between countries in terms of regulating world trade, he told Xinhua.

However, Iweala can help the WTO better play its role of organizing world trade in a more equitable way, Costantinos said. The 66-year old’s credentials, including her experience as a senior official in the World Bank and a former Nigerian finance minister, made her qualified to handle complex global trade issues, he added.

“World trade is completely disoriented in a sense, and therefore bringing world trade to some kind of sensible process needs a person like … Iweala that would eventually be presiding on negotiations between countries,” said Costantinos.

The economic advisor to the AU and the UNECA also said Iweala’s appointment can bring significant benefits to African countries affected by unfair global trade practices.

“The WTO has a key function in terms of regulating trade relations between African countries and (between) Africa and the rest of the world. Her appointment is significant for Africa because this is an able woman,” said Costantinos.



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