WTO needs reform to ensure rule-making still has due credibility: Director-general

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) needs further reform to retain credibility in its rule-making but still plays a key role as a multilateral institution capable of offering solutions to member states, director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on Monday.

Okonjo-Iweala, who took over at the helm of the WTO last month, said in an interview with the China Global Television Network (CGTN) that reform and transformation of the organization is necessary but stressed more discussions need to be initiated among member states.

“The WTO has to work on the reform of the dispute settlement system. I think all WTO members are clear about this. I think the issue is – what should be the nature of these reforms? And on that, WTO members still need to come to an agreement. These are some of the discussions that will be initiated. There are developing countries who have issues with the way the present dispute settlement system works. There are developed countries like the United States who have problems with the way it works,” she said.

“We have to factor all this into account and come to a common understanding of what type of reforms we want. I hope that by the time of the 12th ministerial conference in December, we will at least be on the same playing field, a level playing field, with respect to how do we want to reform the system. We need it to be reformed in order to make sure that the rule-making of the WTO still has the credibility it deserves,” said Okonjo-Iweala.

But the new WTO chief still insists the organization can serve a pivotal role as a major multilateral body which can help member states find solutions to key issues and settle any trade differences.

“The WTO, as a multilateral institution, can certainly help our members like the EU, the US and China to solve some of the problems they have. And I hope they will indeed use this organization, reform it, and use it towards this end because that’s why it’s here. But there are also some issues that need to be solved bilaterally between these big trading powers.

“There is an indication from the Biden administration and the EU for instance, that they might be willing to sit together and try to find a negotiated solution and mediation in the matters that have confronted them on the airlines, the Airbus Boeing dispute, for instance, that has gone on for many years. Similarly, I hope that China and the US can also find a way to settle some of their differences bilaterally. But any remaining differences, the WTO is ready to be able to help members use it as a forum to arrive at some good solutions,” said Okonjo-Iweala.

As the WTO’s first female director-general, Okonjo-Iweala also shared her opinions on female leadership, saying that the day when women heading up top positions becomes a widely-accepted norm is the day when parity has truly been reached.

“Things are moving, but we have a long way to go. Let me tell you, the day that we will say that women’s leadership has arrived, is the day that we’ll no longer find it special, that a woman is in an international organization, that an African is leading. The day we don’t have that as a big piece of excitement, that will tell you that women have really arrived,” said Okonjo-Iweala.

Source: SABC News (sabcnews.com)