Negotiations head optimistic on WTO

Negotiations head optimistic on WTO

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the new director-general at the World Trade Organization (WTO). REUTERS
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the new director-general at the World Trade Organization (WTO). REUTERS

With a new director-general installed, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is expected to restore confidence in the multilateral trading system and help accelerate global economic recovery following the pandemic, says Thailand's trade negotiations chief.

According to Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general to Trade Negotiations Department under the Commerce Ministry, the new director-general is expected to speed up WTO's internal reforms to improve awareness of trade situations and deal with the economic recovery from the pandemic.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was formerly finance minister of Nigeria on two occasions, was appointed Monday to the be the seventh director-general of the WTO. She is the first African and the first woman to lead the body, which governs trade rules between nations.

Ms Okonjo-Iweala is taking a helm of the beleaguered intergovernmental organisation as it faces a slew of challenges that have hobbled the WTO in recent years, including how to best manage the increased friction between economic superpowers the US and China.

Ms Okonjo-Iweala is scheduled to officially take over the WTO's top post on March 1. Her term is set to go through August 2025.

"The new WTO director-general is expected to bring back confidence in the WTO and drive further progress on the long suspension of WTO negotiations. It will be a positive effect on Thailand and we would like to see the moving forward of WTO effectively again," said Mrs Auramon. "The new chief is also expected to accelerate unlocking the WTO's dysfunctional dispute settlement system and push for the appointment of vacant members in the appellate body, which has an important role in protecting members' rights," she said.

The appellate body is a seven-member group that functions as the WTO's highest adjudicator. Their terms expired in December 2019.

With the new director-general, Mrs Auramon said the WTO is expected to help members gain easier access to vaccines, medical supplies and essential products for the pandemic.

Members hope to complete negotiations on fisheries subsidies during the 12th WTO ministerial conference (MC12) later this year, according to Mrs Auramon. The fish subsidy discussions, ongoing since 2001, aim at cutting billions of dollars in subsidies that contribute to overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

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