What I would say to the US president as WTO DG -Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former managing director of the World Bank, has revealed what she would tell the US president or president-elect if she becomes the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

President Donald Trump has widely criticized the WTO as unfair to US interests, but with an election for September 2020, it is not possible he may or may not be the US president when the WTO DG race is concluded.

But speaking at the WTO headquarter in Geneva, Okonjo-Iweala said if she is elected DG, she would explain to whoever the US president by then why the country should not leave the WTO.

“I would say to the president that the WTO delivered for all countries, including the United States in the past,” she said.

“It is because of the multilateral rules-based trading system that we have had prosperity and lifting of millions out of poverty, and it’s been shared prosperity.

“We could do it again. I would say to him or him that where the trading system has failed, we need to fix it so that it can be more inclusive, it can benefit more people.

“Surely, it is not the time now to leave the WTO that matters, we need an institution that can promote a rules-based system. Remember the trade wars of the past — we don’t want that.

“We want peace, security, and stability. That is why the WTO is needed, with its ability to arbitrate disputes within members.

“Don’t leave now, let’s try to fix what needs fixing, and if we didn’t have the WTO, we would have to invent it. That is what I would say to him.”


Responding to a question from TheCable, the former World Bank MD, stated her position on fair trade and what she would do to see that countries from Africa and the rest of the global south benefit from the multilateral trading system.

“The multilateral trading system and the WTO are in place to serve all members, and the hallmark of the WTO is fair, open, transparent, predictable, and stable trade.

“So the expectation is that trade should benefit all members, and where it does not, where the south has been left behind, we should deploy the instruments that are available to make sure we enable countries in the south to trade more, to derive more benefits from the multilateral trading system than they have.

“Were I to be selected as DG, I will be very keen to make sure that instruments like aid for trade which involves technical assistance, capacity building, and working with other organisations such as the World Banks, the regional development banks, to be able to deliver to countries what they need to improve the investments within their borders.

“So that they can process their goods more, create more jobs, and have more to trade, that is what I would be doing to make sure the south improves its position and benefits from the multilateral trading system.”

She reiterated her experience in trade, development economics, finance, and how she remains the most qualified candidate for the WTO top job.

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