WITA WEBINAR: Conversation with WTO Director General Candidate Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Wendy Cutler with the Washington International Trade Association (WITA)
On Tuesday, July 21st, Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) Vice President Wendy Cutler cohosted a special webinar with the Washington International Trade Association (WITA). Cutler, along with WITA Executive Director Ken Levinson and President of the National Foreign Trade Council Amb. Rufus Yerxa, interviewed Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Bank Managing Director and former Nigerian Finance Minister who is currently a candidate to become Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Cutler began by describing both the process and timeline for selecting a new WTO Director-General, saying that we are currently in "a two-month campaign season" that will end on September 7, and will then be followed by a narrowing of the field of candidates and attempts to achieve a consensus among all WTO members.
Okonjo-Iweala then outlined her vision for the WTO and the broader global trading system in the coming years, saying that "the world needs the WTO," and "I'm running because I believe trade is vital, I believe the WTO is vital, and I believe we need to reform the WTO." She suggested that, if she were the Director-General, she would begin by focusing on immediate victories in order to gain momentum for the WTO, including finishing the ongoing fisheries discussions that have been taking place. Later on, she also discussed longer-term challenges such as the ongoing dispute about the Appellate Body, but was enthusiastic about the chances they too could be addressed. "There is a common desire to have the Appellate Body process work," she said. "The issue is how and what’s the process."
Toward the end of the webinar, Cutler emphasized that she agreed with several of Okonjo-Iweala's statements on the importance of facilitating the participation of women in the international trading system.