Again, Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has stressed the vital role the World Trade Organisation (WTO) can play in producing a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.
Okonjo-Iweaka underscored the role of the global trade body in Geneva at a reception held in her honour by the Nigerian Permanent Mission to the UN while appealing for global support for her candidacy as the race for the WTO’s Director General position enters the election phase.
“When vaccines and therapeutic medicine are produced, the WTO should be able to facilitate accessibility and equitable distribution to all member nations.
“To this end, trade has to be a strong recovery out of the global recession. And that makes a multilateral trading system part of the solution,” she said.
Okonjo-Iweala, who currently chairs the Board of GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, is the only candidate at the centre of public health vying for the WTO top job.
She said her experiences in GAVI were an added advantage, as they would enable her to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries in the drive toward producing vaccines.
According to her,e-Commerce and digital economy are vital forms of trade in the new normal brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
She, however, spoke of the need to address the digital divide challenge dichotomy between developing and least developed countries, where infrastructure remains a major impediment to such form of trade.
“There is need for WTO to collaborate with finance agencies to address these issues otherwise it remains an impediment to multilateral trading system.
“If elected as director general, you have an ally, who is interested in addressing these challenges,” she said.
In his remarks, Mr Adebayo Adeniyi, Nigeria’s Minister of Trade and Investment described Okonjo-Iweala as a global icon with proven leadership skills that the WTO would require.
Adeniyi, who was represented by Mr Abdulhamid Adamu, Charge d’ Affairs of the Nigerian Trade Office in Geneva, added that Okonjo-Iweala has achieved a lot of positives some of which are spearheading negotiations and reforms that enhanced transparency of government accounts, as well as strengthening institutions against corruption.
In separate presentations, Amb. Baba Madugu, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Switzerland, and Amb. Leopold Samba of the Central African Republic, applauded Okonjo-Iweala for her desire to be the WTO chief.
They described her as the best candidate for the position given her pedigree and skills.
Candidates from Mexico, Egypt, Moldova, Republic of Korea, Kenya, UK, and Saudi Arabia are also vying for the WTO top job.