WTO DG: FG Lobbies Heads of Delegation to Endorse Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

By James Emejo

The Nigerian Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Mariam Katagum, Thursday urged Heads of State Delegation to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to endorse Nigeria’s candidate, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for the position of director general of the organisation on the strength of her antecedents, competence and statement to the General Council.

The second phase of consultation for the appointment of a new WTO DG was concluded on October 6 with the third and final round underway.

Okonjo-Iweala is widely favoured to clinch the top job.

In a statement issued in her capacity as Chairperson of the Okonjo-Iweala Campaign Team, Katagum charged the heads of delegations to consider the statement of intent and agenda submitted by the former minister of finance, describing as “the best choice for the job”.

She commended the series of endorsements of Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as the European Union (EU) as “an excellent testimony of her eminent qualification for the top job”, adding that ” the WTO of today needs a DG with multiple skills to revive the challenged spirit of trade liberalisation world wide”.

The minister said:”The WTO faces a lot of problems currently. Confronting these challenges necessarily requires building trust among the membership especially as the problems are not solely of a technical nature. Only a DG with the requisite political and negotiating skills coupled with multilateral experience can ensure deep engagement of the Members in order to restore trust and build a truly efficient organisation. Dr Iweala is the right fit”.

Katagum, who before her appointment was the Nigerian Ambassador, Permanent Delegate to UNESCO further noted that “Dr Iweala’s qualities and experience in managing multilateral issues, in trade facilitation and negotiation as well as brokering deals and agreements with high political stakes, puts her in good standing. Her suitability is a product of past and present experience garnered from her Vice Presidency at the World Bank; Finance Ministry portfolio in Nigeria; and her other current global assignments, including with the Gavi Board where she is the chairperson.

“At a time when the world is grappling with the devastating fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic on the world economy, a person of Dr Iweala’s standing is required to steer the ship of the WTO. When all indices are taken into consideration, the WTO indeed needs an internationalist, a multilateralist, a skilled and tested negotiator – all traits the General Council can find in the Nigerian and ECOWAS nominee.”

Okonjo-Iweala is currently one of the two female candidates to proceed to the final stage in the race to lead the Geneva-based global trade body. The other contestant is South Korea’s Ms. Yoo Myung-hee.