WTO’s Incoming Chief Brings Optimism for Global Trade Revival
By Bryce Baschuk, Bloomberg
February 15, 2021
For the first time in years, there’s a budding sense of optimism in Geneva about the global trading system.
Today, after a bruising nine-month selection process, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will be appointed head of the World Trade Organization with the support of the world’s major trading nations, including China and (eventually) the U.S.
Campaigning to be the WTO director-general, however, is a starkly different task than actually being one.
When Okonjo-Iweala enters her new office on the first floor of the Centre William Rappard, she will inherit a dysfunctional organization confronting its institutional nadir.
The WTO’s inability to meaningfully evolve since 1995 has left it moribund, with an inadequate rulebook to govern forces like China’s economic ascent and the exponential growth of the internet economy.
What’s more, the organization has been slow to respond to urgent threats posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects of climate change.
Reforming the WTO is now an urgent task and any failure to do so will cement its irrelevance and risk the proliferation of new global trade conflicts.
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