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Trade experts optimistic of WTO reforms by Okonjo-Iweala

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Some trade experts have affirmed that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment as Director-General of World Trade Organisation (WTO) would make a difference through reforms in the global economic and trade space.

The experts told our repoter in Abuja on Wednesday that the world looked forward to radical reforms of WTO system, especially with the catastrophe caused by COVID-19 on trade.

The WTO confirmed Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former finance minister, as its new director-general on Monday, making her the first African and the first female to head the global organisation.

Her term begins on March 1.

Dr Chijioke Ekechukwu, who described Okonjo-Iweala as a development economist, said she would ensure that Africa got fair trade agreements.

“Considering her experience and pedigree, it is obvious she is going to ensure fair business and trade dealings between countries and among countries,” the expert noted.

Ekechukwu, who also described the appointment as historic, noted that as a new Director-General of WTO, there may be trade agreements that may be priorities for her.

According to him, she may consider the benefits of Doha Round negotiation for the sake of developing economies of Africa by reducing subsidies to agriculture and others sectors of developed countries.

Mr Sand Mba-Kalu, a trade expert, urged Okonjo-Iweala to provide strong leadership on current expectation of global trade and increase developing countries participation in WTO activities.

Mba-Kalu, who is Executive Director, Africa International Trade and Commerce Research, emphasised the need to address the call for the suspension of Intellectual Property (IP) rights related to COVID-19.

He said that the suspension would ensure that not only the developed countries would be able to access and afford the vaccines, medicines, and other medical supplies.

He described the WTO as a rule-based multilateral system that ensure the global trading system works for all member states, adding that unfortunately Africa participation has been very low.

“The reform should also boost members confidence and eliminate uncertainty, as most members believe the current system favours some countries and work against others national and regional objectives.

“We wish Dr OKonjo-Iweala the best and trust she works to deliver the inclusive, holistic, transparent, proactive reforms that members are calling for.

“And identify with issues that will increase Africa participation in WTO activities, e.g market access for Africa export,” he said.

Another expert, Mr Lawrence Nze, underscored the need to strengthen domestic and continental trade and equally boost confidence of Nigeria and Africa in multilateral trading system.

Nze, an economist and USAID Agribusiness Coordinator, said as the new director-general, there should be tangible benefits for Nigeria and Africa at large.

The expert emphasised the need for global value chain opportunities and seamless trade facilitation regime through effective mechanism.

Emmanuella Anokam

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