- “It cannot be business as usual. We have to change our approach from debate and rounds of questions to delivering results,” she told ambassadors and other top government envoys that make up the 164-member body's General Council.
- Okonjo-Iweala is the very first woman to lead the WTO in the slightly more than 25-year history of the institution.
- “The world is leaving the WTO behind. Leaders and decision-makers are impatient for change," she said
The Nigerian top economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Monday during her first speech as Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) assured that the institution cannot continue to function in the same way as it has been up to now and must streamline its procedures and offer results if it wants to return to being an internationally relevant institution.
“It cannot be business as usual. We have to change our approach from debate and rounds of questions to delivering results,” she told ambassadors and other top government envoys that make up the 164-member body’s General Council.
Okonjo-Iweala is the very first woman to lead the WTO in the slightly more than 25-year history of the institution. In her speech, she underscored the need for the organization to deliver solutions at the pace that rapidly changing environments require.
“The world is leaving the WTO behind. Leaders and decision-makers are impatient for change,” she said, noting several trade ministers had told her that “if things don’t change,” they would not attend the WTO’s biggest event — a ministerial meeting — “because it is a waste of their time.”
She lamented over the fact that more and more work and decision-making that should be done in the WTO is being done elsewhere, because there is a growing loss of confidence in the WTO’s ability to deliver results.
In this sense, Okonjo-Iweala has expressed the need to prioritize action on the covid-19 pandemic, both in the short and longer-term, and focus the agency’s efforts on completing the negotiations on fishing subsidies before mid-September. this year, as well as reaching an agreement on the roadmap for the reform of the institution’s dispute resolution system and preparing a work program to achieve it and that can be endorsed at the Twelfth Ministerial Conference to be held in Geneva at the end of 2021.
Geneva to Host CM12
WTO members have agreed that the Organization’s Twelfth Ministerial Conference (CM12) will be held the week of November 29, 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland, after the meeting originally scheduled for June 8-11, 2020 in Kazakhstan had to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thus, MC12 will be chaired by the Minister of Trade and Integration of Kazakhstan, Bakhyt Sultanov, as approved by the WTO members in December 2019.
The Ministerial Conference, which is attended by the trade ministers and other representatives of the 164 member countries of the international institution, is the entity’s largest decision-making body and is held at least once every two years. The last meeting took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December 2017.
While “intensifying” dialogue continues on the vaccine waiver proposal, Okonjo-Iweala said: “I propose that we ‘walk and chew gum’ by also focusing on the immediate needs of dozens of poor countries that have yet to vaccinate a single person. People are dying in poor countries.”