Wednesday, August 4

Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala to head troubled world trade body

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former finance minister, was appointed Monday to head the main international trade body as it seeks to resolve disagreements over how it decides cases involving billions in sales and thousands of jobs.

The 66-year-old was appointed director general of the World Trade Organization by representatives of 164 member countries, according to a statement.

“Our organization faces many challenges, but by working together we can make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to today’s realities,” he said.

His first priority will be to address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and “implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again.”

The appointment came after US President Joe Biden endorsed his candidacy, which had been blocked by former President Donald Trump.

Biden’s move was a step toward his goal of supporting more cooperative approaches to international problems after Trump’s “America first” approach that launched multiple trade disputes.

But unlocking the appointment is just the beginning of dealing with trade disputes started by Trump and resolving America’s concerns about the WTO since the Obama administration. The United States had blocked the appointment of new judges to the WTO’s appellate body, essentially freezing their ability to resolve large and complex trade disputes.

The United States argues that the WTO is moving slowly, but reverses opposition to Okonjo-Iweala

The US government has argued that the trade organization is slow and bureaucratic, ill-equipped to handle the problems posed by China’s state-dominated economy, and that it unduly restricts US attempts to impose sanctions on countries. that unfairly subsidize their companies or export at unusually low prices.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration reversed Trump’s opposition and expressed “strong support” for Okonjo-Iweala, saying he “brings a great deal of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy.” She is the first African civil servant and the first woman to hold the job position.

Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister, had a 25-year career at the World Bank, where she rose to the No. 2 position of managing director. He has American and Nigerian citizenship.

South Korean Commerce Minister Yoo Myung-hee had withdrawn his candidacy, leaving Okonjo-Iweala as the only option. His predecessor, Roberto Azevedo, resigned on August 31, a year before his term expired.

Trump repeatedly accused the WTO of unfair treatment of the United States, started a trade war with China in defiance of the WTO system, and threatened to remove the United States from the trade body entirely. Trump also imposed steel tariffs of 25% that hit European allies on national security grounds, a justification that went beyond the trade measures normally used within the framework of WTO rules to address complaints about unfair trade. .

So far, Biden has not said whether the US will unblock the appellate appointments, and neither has he withdrawn the steel tariffs, which are backed by the US steel industry and union groups.

The World Trade Organization is an international body that deals with the rules of trade between nations. At its center are the WTO agreements, negotiated between most of the world’s nations and ratified in their legislatures.

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