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WTO: Okonjo-Iweala touts training as development economist

Nigeria’s candidate for the post of Director- General of World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, has said that her training as a development economist makes her eminently qualified for the job. Speaking during a webinar hosted by Chatham House yesterday, Okonjo- Iweala dismissed suggestions in some quarters that her not having been in the WTO system puts her at a disadvantage compared with other candidates for the post. She said: “When you are a development Eeconomist, you have to deal with trade; it is one of the tools of influencing people’s lives.

I have been doing that all my life. I did that at the World Bank; I did it in seven years I spent as finance minister in Nigeria.” She reiterated her stance that choosing a director general for the WTO should be on merit, warning that unless the organistaion elects a proven reformer at this point in its history, it stood the risk of further sliding into irrelevance. According to her, “The WTO is at a difficult position and this is the right time to choose a reformer to fix the organization. This is why choosing its leadership should be on merit. If it gets it wrong, it will continue to be more irrelevant.

You need something beyond having technical expertise for the job.“ She further stated that the WTO DG job required someone “who can actually reform, not talk about it.” She pointed out that she carried out a lot of reforms in Nigeria and actually wrote a book on the subject. Responding to a question on her she would help to ensure the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) if elected WTO DG, she said she was pleased that AfCFTA negotiations complied with WTO rules, adding that she would collaborate with relevant institutions to bolster the agreement.

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