Okonjo-Iweala: Rumors about my interest in the presidency are “totally ridiculous”

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala

Charles Ajunwa

World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said she was not interested in participating in the 2023 presidential election, calling the speculation “utterly ridiculous and false.”

Bloomberg News yesterday quoted “some Geneva trade officials” as saying they suspected Okonjo-Iweala of wanting to run in the 2023 presidential election in his native Nigeria.

The rumor of presidential ambition comes after a previous report on alleged threats by the former Nigerian finance minister to step down as director general of the WTO.
But yesterday, in a statement to Bloomberg News, Okonjo-Iweala denied any interest in running for the Nigerian presidency.

Previously, she had reacted to rumors that she was considering the possibility of resigning her post at the WTO just seven months after the start of her four-and-a-half-year term.
She said, “I just arrived. I enjoy what I do. It’s a very exciting job and I’m trying to have some success here.

According to Bloomberg News, the boss of the WTO started the year with “a plan for quick wins in the negotiations which she says would help restart the dysfunctional Geneva-based trade body”; but she captured the frustrating reality of the historic inertia of the WTO.

The New York-based outlet cited five business officials in Geneva who declined to be identified.
This year, Okonjo-Iweala had repeatedly told ambassadors and staff that she could easily leave her post, and reminded them that she had not purchased any furniture for her temporary home in Geneva, officials said.

An early departure of the top trade official from the WTO would add yet another layer of chaos to an organization suffering from an existential crisis that could lead governments to conclude that the WTO is not a credible forum to meet their challenges common, the outlet said.
Deep divisions and lack of confidence are not new to the WTO, which requires consensus among 164 members to finalize multilateral agreements.

The rigid negotiating structure of the WTO and the disparate interests of its various members have kept the organization from delivering anything substantive for much of the past decade.

Last year, Okonjo-Iweala’s predecessor, Roberto Azevedo – cited the lack of progress at the WTO as the main reason for his resignation from the organization a year before the expected end of his term.

The real test of Okonjo-Iweala’s leadership will come in November, when it hosts the 12th WTO ministerial conference – a meeting of the organization’s highest decision-making body, according to Bloomberg, noting that to date , WTO members have not made significant progress. on the three priority areas identified by Okonjo-Iweala for potential outcomes at the biennial meeting.

These are: an agreement to reduce harmful subsidies to fisheries; a commitment to reduce agricultural policies that distort trade; and a framework for expanding global trade in vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.


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