Africa’s WTO Moment
If she is chosen to head the World Trade Organization, former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, an experienced development economist, would make a broken institution relevant again. She has the gravitas to build bridges between the US and China, on the one hand, and between the WTO and Africa, on the other.
BOSTON – The selection of the World Trade Organization’s next director-general has entered its final phase, with two candidates left in the running: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance and economy minister and a former managing director of the World Bank, and Yoo Myung-hee, South Korea’s trade minister. In view of the WTO’s current challenges, Okonjo-Iweala is the better choice.
The WTO faces two major crises: an institutional crisis caused by the great-power rivalry between the United States and China, and a crisis of globalization – of which the WTO, as the overseer of global trade rules, is a major symbol.
Sino-American trade tensions have paralyzed the organization, with the US blocking the appointment of new judges to its appellate body, which rules on trade disputes among member countries. Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis, another source of great-power tension, has prompted many firms to consider reshoring production in order to reduce their reliance on pandemic-hit Chinese suppliers, thus disrupting the global supply chains that are critical to world trade.