The World Trade Organization has chosen Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as its first female and first African leader, handing her the task of restoring trust in a rules-based global trading system.
On Monday, the WTO’s 164 members unanimously selected the 66-year-old development economist to serve a four-year term as director general. Okonjo-Iweala will take over the institution, with its budget of $220m and staff of 650, at a critical time.
After four years of bruising battles between Washington and Beijing over protectionist tariffs and import quotas that badly damaged global trade, Okonjo-Iweala is expected to set about bridging a growing divide between the administrations running the world’s first and second largest economies.
Speaking after her appointment, Okonjo-Iweala said her top priority was to ensure the WTO does more to address the coronavirus pandemic, saying members should accelerate efforts to lift export restrictions slowing trade in needed medicines and supplies, and warned of the danger posed by “vaccine nationalism”.
“No one is safe until everyone is safe,” she told Reuters. “Vaccine nationalism at this time just will not pay, because the variants are coming. If other countries are not immunised, it will just be a blowback. It’s unconscionable that people will be dying elsewhere, waiting in a queue, when we have the technology.”
Last year in an interview with the guardian, she said the pandemic had highlighted dysfunctional trade rules that should be reformed to ensure medical breakthroughs save lives everywhere and not just in the countries where they are developed.
By: Amebonized Sammy
Source: The Guardian