Why WTO Heads of Delegations should endorse Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala : Ambassador Mariam Katagum, Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment; Chairperson, Okonjo-Iweala Campaign Team

Why WTO  Heads of Delegations should endorse Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala :  Ambassador Mariam Katagum, Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment; Chairperson, Okonjo-Iweala Campaign Team

Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Ngonjo-Iweala

 The Nigerian Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Mariam Katagum has called on Heads of State Delegations to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to endorse Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on the strength of her antecedents, competence and statement to the General Council.

The second phase of consultation for the appointment of a new WTO DIrector General was concluded on 6th October with the third and final round now underway. Dr Okonjo-Iweala is widely favoured to clinch the top job.

In a statement issued, in her capacity as Chairperson of the Okonjo-Iweala Campaign Team, Ambassador Katagum charged Heads of Delegations to read again, the statement of intent and agenda submitted by Dr Okonjo-Iweala, describing the former Nigerian Minister of Finance as “the best choice for the job”.

She commended the series of endorsements of Dr Iweala’s candidacy from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to the European Union (EU) as “an excellent testimony of her eminent qualification for the top job”, adding that ” the WTO of today needs a DG with multiple skills to revive the challenged spirit of trade liberalisation world wide”.

” The WTO faces a lot of problems currently. Confronting these challenges necessarily requires building trust among the membership especially as the problems are not solely of a technical nature. Only a DG with the requisite political and negotiating skills coupled with multilateral experience can ensure deep engagement of the Members in order to restore trust and build a truly efficient organisation. Dr Iweala is the right fit”, she said.

Katagum, who before her appointment was the Nigerian Ambassador, Permanent Delegate to UNESCO further noted that “Dr Iweala’s qualities and experience in managing multilateral issues, in trade facilitation and negotiation as well as  brokering deals and agreements with high political stakes, puts her in good standing. Her suitability is a product of past and present experience garnered from her Vice Presidency at the World Bank; Finance Ministry portfolio in Nigeria; and her other current global assignments, including with the Gavi Board where she is the Chairperson”.

” At a time when the world is grappling with the devastating fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic on the world economy, a person of Dr Iweala’s standing is required to steer the ship of the WTO. When all indices are taken into consideration, the WTO indeed needs an internationalist, a multilateralist, a skilled and tested negotiator – all traits the General Council can find in the Nigerian and ECOWAS nominee”, Katagum, her self a tested diplomat reiterated.

Quoting from Dr Iweala’s statement to the General Council, the Nigerian Minister said “I believe she brings exactly the right combination of skills and experience (public sector, international civil society, multilateral organisations and worldwide network of contacts) needed to lead this organisation in the future”.

It would be recalled that at the  Heads of Delegations’ meeting on 18th September, 2020 Amb. Walker and his two co-facilitators in the selection process disclosed the five candidates who had secured the broadest and deepest support from the WTO membership and should consequently advance to the next stage of the process.

Amb. Walker said the second phase of consultations will begin on 24th September and run until 6th October. During this time, members will be asked in the confidential consultations to express two preferences to the facilitators with an eye to bringing the number of candidates down from five to two. 

Following this process, Amb. Walker will call another Heads of Delegations’ meeting at which the results will be announced to the WTO membership.