Home Business Okonjo-Iweala emerges as WTO DG, after exit of Donald Trump as US president, LCCI caution on expectation

Okonjo-Iweala emerges as WTO DG, after exit of Donald Trump as US president, LCCI caution on expectation

by Business News Report

The exit of Donald Trump as US President with his anti Nigeria agenda Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has at last been confirmed as the Director General of the World Trade Organisation. The Nigerian government in reaction to her emergence said that the selection of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was the right choice. Meanwhile Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry said “While the emergence of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala as the new WTO Director-General is very gratifying and calls for celebration, there is a need to manage expectations around the outcomes for the Nigerian economy given the numerous productivity and competitiveness issues the country is grappling with.  Ultimately, these are the factors that would determine the benefits that would accrue to the economy from global trade.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo in his speech delivered  via zoom at the Special General Council Meeting of the organisation in Geneva, Switzerland, said the process of selection was not only transparent but the credit for the resulting success must go to the entire membership and to the TROIKA. According to him, “Nigeria wishes to express profound gratitude and deep appreciation to all the members, who one way or the other, assisted Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during the campaign period. Thanks also goes to all the regional groupings in the WTO for granting audience and support during and after the exercise.  “We also thank the WTO Secretariat staff, translators and the press who worked really hard in supporting and providing updates to members and the general public on the DirectorGeneral selection process.” The Minister in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Ifedayo Sayo, described Dr Okonjo-Iweala as one of the few on the global stage that enjoy high recognition in view of charismatic leadership qualities and proven records of excellence and integrity, along with international political connections. 

He stressed, “We believe that the new Director-General will lead this organisation to achieve its purpose and mandate.” He assured that the new Director General of WTO would not disappoint the organisation and all those who worked to make the appointment a reality, saying, “You will find her as a servant-leader who will always listen to you and work with you to achieve a common purpose. Mr. Chairman, Your Excellencies, may I take this opportunity to refresh our memories on the campaign promises made by Dr. Ngozi having clearly identified various challenges affecting the WTO as a multilateral organisation, she shared her thoughts on possible solutions that would be brought on board for discussion, consideration and implementation with a view to ensuring that the full mandates and functions of the WTO are enforced in accordance with the highest expectations of members.

“She also assured that she would work hard, with the support of members, to uphold the image and integrity of the WTO as a multilateral institution that was established to serve members equally. Likewise, she will put more effort towards mediating among members to ensure that factors responsible for divergences on various negotiating issues are addressed and streamlined so that the MC-12 will have fruitful outcomes on some basic issues. As a reformer, she has undertaken to work with members on the WTO reform agenda, including the urgent need to address the impasse of the Appellate in the Dispute Settlement Body in order for the WTO to be more focused, achievement oriented and acceptable to all members. New initiatives with the support of members will be introduced to source for more funds from other multilateral financial institutions in order to assist members in building their capacity to fully comply with their obligations and new trade initiatives in the WTO. Finally, Chair, Excellencies, we urge all members to give the new Director-General all the cooperation, support and solidarity that would be required for her to work with a view to making WTO a truly outstanding multilateral institution”.

Meanwhile LCCI in a statement signed by the Director General said “The Lagos Chamber of Commerce & Industry heartily felicitates with Nigeria on the appointment of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It is a great delight being the First Female and First African to head the WTO since its formation in 1995 [replacing the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which commenced in 1948]. Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence comes at a time when the global trading system is faced with numerous challenges including supply chain disruptions precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic, rising protectionism & unilateralism, growing economic nationalism, imposition of trade restrictions covering substantial amount of international trade, as well as trust and credibility concerns among members.

“Africa has peculiar challenges in the global trade arena. The continent is deeply integrated into the global supply chain and this underscores the low participation level of African economies in international trade. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Africa’s trade with the global community between 2015 and 2017 stood at an average of $760.1 billion, compared with Asia ($6.8 trn), America ($5.1 trn) and Europe ($4.1trn). These numbers indicate that Africa is not a major player in global trade. As such, it is very pertinent for African economies to build capacity within the continent in order to take advantage of the opportunities in global trade. Nigeria’s share in global trade is even more insignificant. Our export structure is still largely dependent on crude oil, which accounts for about 50% of government revenue and 90% of foreign exchange earnings. More importantly, Nigeria’s non-oil exports are largely primary commodities with little or zero value addition. Thus, the prospects of tapping international trade opportunities remains dim.  For Nigeria to fully take advantage of the opportunities offered by the World Trade Organization under the leadership of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, it is imperative to ensure the following:

“We need to build capacity for international competitiveness of our products and services. Also imperative is the need to address trade facilitation issues, especially around port processes, ports infrastructures, international trade documentation, foreign exchange policies, trade policies and industrial policies. We need to promote local value addition and backward integration to strengthen competitiveness of our domestic industries. We must undertake reforms of our tariff policy in accordance with the principles of comparative advantage, which would enable the country optimise opportunities in the global trade arena and enhance the citizens’ welfare. It is critical to develop an AfCFTA strategy that would enable the country leverage trade opportunities both continentally and globally.  There is need to improve on our strategy in managing the coronavirus pandemic ranging from ensuring compliance to safety protocols to vaccine procurement and distribution”.

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