Business - Featured - International - March 2, 2021

WTO Needs Reform, Rebrand: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) new leader, Ngozi Okonjo Iwela has started on plans to reform the trade body, which has failed  to address many of the important changes that have occurred in the global trading system over the past 25 years.

The WTO struggled to maintain its relevance over the past four years as it was sidelined by the unilateral trade actions against China and other major trading partners.

The Trump administration accelerated the WTO’s crisis in 2019 when it opposed all new appointments to the organization’s seven-member appellate body, saying it had overstepped its mandate.

In remarks published on the WTO website,  Okonjo Iweala said it cannot be business as usual.

“We have to change our approach from debate and rounds of questions to delivering results,”she said.

Okonjo-Iweala’s initial approach to changing the WTO mirrors her predecessor’s method of prioritizing discussions on low-hanging fruit for agreement at the WTO’s ministerial conferences while pursuing solutions for longer-term debate on more divisive issues.

In an interview with Bloomberg Television on Wednesday,  Okonjo-Iweala said reforming the WTO paralyzed dispute resolution body will be a key priority for the institution, but the process won’t be easy.

“There’s a very great desire to reform the dispute settlement system with the appellate body but it won’t be easy because if it were easy it would have been done, but I think we can put together an approach and a work program,” she said.

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