Updated: March 1, 2021
“It can not be business as usual,” newly elected World Trade Organization Director General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-lweala said in her opening statement at her appointment on February 15. (See 20 Facts About Ngozi Okonjo-lweala)
Dr.Ngozi takes on her new role at a rare and pivotal time for the WTO as it bares the responsibility of finding a way to use global trade to battle the pandemic. With a calm confidence, Dr Ngozi displays how her leadership, varied experience, and innovative methods will prepare the WTO to address the major challenges and tasks ahead of them.
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First and foremost is addressing the COVID 19 pandemic as both a health and economic issue. This is a great opportunity for the WTO to prove itself as reliable to the entire world, and in doing so set a precedent for responding to pandemics in the future. Through the collaboration of major multilaterals such as the IMF and World Bank, there can be a blueprint ‘response’ or set of actions in place to ensure the world economy remains resilient in the midst of a future global pandemic.
Dr.Ngozi demonstrates a motivation to develop trust and a consensus amongst WTO members in order to alleviate the barriers some countries face in defending against COVID 19. This means mitigating those countries that may have import/export restrictions on medical commodities such as tools and supplies. Adjustments to how the WTO members plan to address intellectual property rights issues in terms of vaccines is another major consideration.
One of Dr.Ngozi other major points was stressing the need to digitize and modernize in 2021. The pandemic has caused a rapid evolution towards digitizing businesses, data, trading and functioning ecommerce. This calls for “deep and wide range” reforms that puts a more modern approach in place for the WTO’s “rules of the game”.
As the first African and Woman Director General of the WTO, Dr. Ngozi will not only have to prove herself for women and Africa, but she will have to prove to the world that the WTO can protect and evolve the world economy.