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WTO: Okonjo-Iweala expresses frustration, mulls quitting job –Report

…faults story on 2023 presidential ambition

Just seven months into her four and half-year term, the Director General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has become frustrated with the workings of the organisation and has floated the idea of resigning if no headway can be found on critical issues, Bloomberg reported yesterday. According to the report, five trade officials at the WTO, who declined to be identified, said that Okonjo- Iweala had repeatedly told ambassadors and staff that she could easily walk away from the job, and reminds them she hasn’t bought any furniture for her temporary home in Geneva. But in a statement to Bloomberg News on speculation that s not true.” She added: “I just got here.

I am enjoying what I’m doing. It is a very exciting job and I am trying to have some successes here.” Dr. Okonjo-Iweala began her tenure with a plan to score quick negotiating victories that she hoped would help reboot the dysfunctional Geneva-based trade body. Analysts note that her early departure would add yet another layer of chaos to an organisation suffering from an existential crisis that may lead governments to conclude that WTO is not a credible forum for addressing their shared challenges. Deep divisions and a lack of trust are not new for the WTO, which requires consensus agreement among all 164 members to finalize multilateral accords.

The WTO’s rigid negotiating structure and disparate interests of its diverse membership have precluded the organization from delivering anything substantial for the better part of the past decade. Last year, Okonjo-Iweala’s predecessor – Roberto Azevedo – cited the lack of progress at the WTO as his primary reason for resigning from the organisation a year before his tenure was scheduled to end.

The report stated that the true test of Okonjo-Iweala’s leadership would come later in November, when she hosts the WTO’s 12th ministerial conference – a gathering of the organization’s highest decision-making body. To date, WTO members have failed to make significant headway on the three priority areas Okonjo- Iweala identified for potential outcomes at the biennial meeting. These are: an agreement to curb harmful fishery subsidies; a pledge to reduce trade-distorting agricultural policies; and a framework to expand global trade in vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

 

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