WTO Job: Okonjo-Iweala Says She’s Uncowed

WTO Job: Okonjo-Iweala Says She's Uncowed
Nigerian former minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Nigeria’s candidate for the  World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Director-General (DG), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has expressed confidence, saying she’s not scared of the ongoing competition with other countries’ candidates.

As the race for the WTO job enters the final month, Okonjo-Iweala claimed to be uncowed.

The 66-year-old said the reforms she spearheaded as Nigerian finance minister led to her octogenarian mother, Kamene Okonjo being abducted from her home for five days in 2012.

Recounting the incident, the Nigerian former minister said rather than give her fear for challenges like the WTO race, the abduction has rather equipped her to replace Roberto Azevedo as the DG of the trade body.

“Would you be more scared if your mother was kidnapped and held to ransom with a demand that you resign your job publicly on television – or else you would not see her alive – or if you said to the US and China, you have to bridge your differences? It’s going to be a tough task but you can’t compare it with what I’ve had to go through,” she was quoted as saying.

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When asked what distinguished her from her main rival to win – Dr Mohamed, who’s a high-flying African woman, Dr Okonjo-Iweala explained that she’s “the only candidate working at the intersection of public health and trade”, given her current role as chairman of the board at Gavi, the vaccine alliance backed by the Bill Gates Foundation.

Her words: “The WTO has to be part of the solution to the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said. “The WTO has rules on how, in a public health emergency, you can invoke the possibility for countries to license products and produce them to make them more affordable and accessible.

“South Africa invoked it during the HIV crisis when people were dying because they couldn’t get access to HIV drugs.”

She further pledged to “massively step up the monitoring effort” of countries imposing export restrictions on medical goods and medicines.

“What is needed now is not more of the same but a reformer who can ­actually change things,” she said.

“If you don’t do this, the WTO will go into irrelevance.”

Okonjo-Iweala is however in the race alongside Myung-hee.

The race of the next WTO DG also has one more female candidate, Amina Mohamed, who did not get the support of the EU.

Recall that some weeks ago, eight candidates (five men and three women) started the race. But have now been shortlisted to five through a selection process.

The remaining five candidates that will advance to the next round of elimination are -Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, Yoo Myung-hee of the Republic of Korea, Amina Mohamed of Kenya, Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Liam Fox of the United Kingdom.

After today (Tuesday, October 6, 2020), WTO will announce two finalists, and later on Saturday, November 7, the winner will be disclosed to the world.

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