Statement

New WTO Director General Okonjo-Iweala faces need for substantial reforms

15.02.2021

Prof. Gabriel Felbermayr, president of the Kiel Institute, comments on the imminent appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO):

Kiel Institute Statements - Gabriel Felbermayr

“With Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the WTO has an energetic and experienced new Director General. This is an important prerequisite for averting the WTO's impending irrelevance. Okonjo-Iweala has the complex task of remedying the WTO's fundamental design problems. For the WTO's concept was developed for a world with no major geostrategic rivalries with the sole objective to increase per capita income through trade. A reformed WTO must be designed to deal with geostrategic rivalries and systemic competition that have grown and will remain in the 21st century.

In times of pandemic, Okonjo-Iweala is a very good choice as the current head of the international vaccination alliance GAVI. She will advance the WTO's collaboration with the World Health Organization. A critical first issue in this context will certainly be how intellectual property protection is handled in the case of vaccines.  As a development economist with long experience at the World Bank, she will have the interests of poor countries more in mind than her predecessors and will focus her attention on ensuring that global trade remains an opportunity for growth and development for poor countries.”

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