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Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Takes Over As DG WTO

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Nigeria’s Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala takes over the affairs of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as Director-General on Monday, March 1, seven months after the sudden departure of Brazilian Roberto Azevedo. She is hitting the ground running, with her first day on the job in Geneva which coincides with the annual meeting of WTO’s General Council. Her appointment has elicited hope that she will affect transformation even as she intends to address some key issues in the organization including the pandemic fuelled global economic crisis. During a press conference following her appointment, she revealed that she is taking the reins of WTO at a time of great uncertainty. She said it cannot be business as usual at the WTO.

Dr. Ngozi told AFP a day after her nomination last month “The WTO is too important to allow it to be slowed down, paralyzed and moribund,”

She further stated that she is used to doing tough jobs all her life like when she was the finance minister in Nigeria, noting that it was a big honour to be able to help use policies to change people’s lives and that’s why she is here today.

According to her, there are two sides to dealing with the prevailing global issues, “the public health side and the economic side.” On the public health side, she has spelled out how she thinks they can work faster to save lives so countries don’t have to wait years before getting access to vaccines. On the economic side, there is definitely a role for trade to play in the recovery. Now in the world about 60-plus countries are vaccinating and others are not.

She said it is the self-interest of every country to see everyone vaccinated because you’re not safe till everyone is safe.

She added that Fisheries subsidies negotiations have been going on for 20 years she stressed that this cannot go on. Because people are not short of any trade negotiation expertise in Geneva. It’s full of negotiating experts. But the problems have not been solved they have gotten worse. So she thinks what is needed is something entirely different to turn the WTO around.