Kenyan candidate favourite to land WTO top job

04 August 2020 | International

THOMPSON KANYETUA former Kenyan minister of foreign affairs, Dr Amina Mohamed, could become Africa’s first head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Mohamed (58) is hailed as an accomplished international civil servant and diplomat who has served in various high-level international, regional and national portfolios over the past three decades. She is Kenya’s current minister for sports, culture and heritage.

Mohamed is deemed to have the necessary experience for the WTO director-general position, having previously served as Kenya’s ambassador to the organisation, as well as chairing the WTO's ministerial conference in Nairobi in 2015.

Six candidates, including three from Africa, are vying for the WTO director-general post. The current DG, Ricardo Azevedo from Brazil, will vacate the position on 31 August. The other candidates in the running are from Egypt, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria and South Korea.

Reform needed

Outlining her platform for steering the world body out of crises caused by global trade tensions, rising protectionism and a Covid-19-induced dive in business, Mohamed said the need for a strengthened WTO that would make a difference in the lives of ordinary people cannot be overemphasised.

“I have spent a significant part of my career advocating for a liberalised trading system that would benefit all countries, particularly African countries,” she said.

“The rules-based multilateral trading system has been a force for good since its creation in 1948 by contributing to the tremendous expansion of the global economy and increasing living standards in almost all countries.

“It has helped developing countries, including African countries, to use trade to alleviate poverty and achieve sustainable economic growth and development.”

But, she pointed out, “Its many achievements risk being overshadowed by its inability to confront recent challenges, including the inability to conclude agreements that would modernise the trading system and enable it to provide opportunities for businesses to expand trade and investment for the benefit of all countries.”

Time of crisis

Mohamed said the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to trigger the most severe economic contraction since the Great Depression.

“No country is in a position to manage the Covid-19 crisis alone. That holds particularly true for trade. Indeed, what the world now needs the most is a revitalised WTO that would play an enhanced role in pulling the global economy out of recession,” she said.

The new WTO chief must revive stalled trade talks, lay the ground for the 2021 ministerial conference — one of the WTO’s major events — and thaw relations with Washington.

The United States, which has threatened to leave the WTO, has blocked the organisation’s dispute settlement appeal system since December, and wants China moved up from the developing economies category. – Globe Media

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