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I will end China-US trade war as WTO DG, Okonjo-Iweala vows, and outlines benefits of office to Africa

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Africa’s World Trade Organisation (WTO) top job hopeful, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is already looking ahead to the duties of the Director General (DG) of the 25 years old multilateral economic body.

As build up to the election that would hold and usher in a new DG on September 1, 2021 for five-year tenure, the two-time former Finance Minister of Nigeria has told the BBC part of her plans for the big office.

One of the major issues she outlined is a huge task of bringing to an end the lingering trade war between world’s top two economies, US and China that started in May 2018 when President Donald Trump of the USA announced a chain of tariffs on Chinese goods to his country, which China retaliated.

Okonjo-Iweala who is former vice president of the World Band and an ex-director of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with nativity in China also used the interview to explain the benefits that would accrue to Africa and her economy if she serves in that office.

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria had two weeks ago nominated to the African Union, a sole candidate that is Okonjo-Iweala who also heads the South African economic revival team. Her nomination was however heralded and accepted by the African Union apart from minority dissent by Egypt.

A lot of people (Africans and non-Africans) were not surprised when President Muhammadu Buhari nominated a two-time Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next Director-General of the World Trade Organisation. The reason is quite simple, her negotiating skill is immeasurable and her records speak.

If given an opportunity to serve, Okonjo-Iweala said she is ready to contribute her quota to the world economy. In her interview with BBC, she reeled her plans and what makes her the right candidate for the job.

She said wants to lead the WTO because  she believes it is an opportunity to serve all the countries in the world. Her words, “I believe WTO is one of the most important multi-lateral bodies in the world despite the challenges it faces and the reforms that need to be done. I believe it is very relevant for the economic development, growth and sharing of prosperity in the world.

“I want the job because I think I have the skills for it. I think the organization needs some reforms to make it relevant for times we are in and I have a reputation as a strong reformer. I have actually written a book titled ‘Reforming the Reformable,’ where we undertook certain reforms with a team in Nigeria. I am also a person with strong negotiation skills. I have a career of over 30 years for constantly been involved in negotiating an important agreement between countries.”

US and China war

Regarding her plans to mend trade fence between the US and China, she did not hesitate to outline what she thought was the problem and how to tackle them. She admitted that the task would be challenging but insisted it is what she relishes.

She said, “I relish the challenge of being able to build trust and I do hope that be an objective arbiter between US and China and as well as other member countries, I can help to find what the common interests are.

“I believe the Americans know that they have benefitted over time from the WTO and the World Trading System and other countries have also benefitted. I think what is involved is being a good listener. It is important to listen to the concerns of the Americans, China, Europe, Africa, Asia and try to bring them to the table around a common interest. I strongly believe that this world we face today, we need a forum where one can bring common interests together. In spite of all the words we hear, there is a need to bring people together and bring trust around a shared interest.”

What the job means for Africa

Okonjo-Iweala explained that the job is extremely important for Africa because the continent has never held the position and African countries feel they can benefit better from the World Trading System. She added that the continent has negotiated a monumental agreement, which is the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, to strengthen the economies of the continent and enable them to trade with each other better and enable them to face the trading system of the world together.

SOURCE:BBC, with our additional report

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