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Okonjo-Iweala: Confronting WTO’s challenges will ensure level playing field for countries

Okonjo-Iweala: Confronting WTO’s challenges will ensure level playing field for countries
October 16
11:19 2020

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former minister of finance and Nigeria’s candidate for the World Trade Organisation director general position, says the organisation can be the way out of the challenges currently faced by countries.

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Okonjo-Iweala spoke on the sidelines of the ongoing International Monetary Fund/World Bank Annual meetings, at the CNBC debate titled: ‘The Outlook for the Global economy,’ where she featured alongside Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF managing director, Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, and Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia’s minister of finance.

“The WTO is the only organisation that has rules that underpin the multilateral trading system. And this is the system that most of the world belongs to,” she said.

“So, I think that the sooner we confront the challenges the organisation is facing and strengthen it, and strengthen the multilateral trading system so that we can have a predictable fair and level playing field in trade, the sooner everybody would be able to get back to that system instead of the kind of bilateral deals or difficulties that we see countries getting into now.”

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Okonjo-Iweala, who currently chairs the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (GAVI), urged developed countries and multilateral institutions to increase support for low-income countries.

“These are the poorer countries, who don’t have the ability to have the kind of fiscal stimulus that you have seen in the developed countries or even in emerging markets like Indonesia.

“We have seen the rich countries put about $12 trillion in stimulus with more on the way with 10 to 20 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, whereas, in many poor countries, in the African continent for example, maybe an average of two per cent of GDP fiscal stimulus.

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“And many of these countries do not have the fiscal space to stimulate their economies or even to be able to afford payments for vaccines and this is something I would like us to talk about because they don’t have the resources for households or corporates.

“We need to think about what that means because the world is very interconnected now and people in rich countries can stimulate their economies and come out of it by buying vaccines from as many sources and we would be fine because that is not true.”

Okonjo-Iweala is one of the two final candidates in the WTO election.

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