Race for World Trade Organisation DG enters home stretch

The selection of the next World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director General is expected to close in the coming weeks as the General Council begins narrowing the field of candidates. Kenya will be rallying behind its candidate – Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed – as countries’ ambassadors join in on the selection implemented largely by way of consensus. Campaigns to the top world trade post officially closed on Monday with each candidate having made themselves known to all WTO members. WTO General Council Chair David Walker is now expected to lead consultations which will see the field of candidates narrow from eight to five by September 21. Subsequently, the field will further thin to two in the final round ahead of final selection process scheduled to close in early November. While addressing members from the East African Business Council (EABC) on Wednesday from Geneva, Switzerland, CS Amina Mohammed indicated she would seek to elevate the continents position in global trade through the actualization of policies such as the Africa free Continental Trade Area (AfCTA). “If selected, the priority for me would be to support the secretariat of AfCTA through building capacities within the WTO secretariat,” she said. Further, CS Amina indicated the need of listing tariffs levied between states in Africa to trim the continents reliance on overseas trade. “If we are able to get rid of the 6.1 average tariffs that we levy on goods, we would double intra-Africa trade from 15 to 30 per cent. Already, if we do that, we will be relying less on trade with other regions,” she added. Africa has three candidates in the run in for the top trade seat including Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Egypt’s Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh. The continents private sector represented by the Pan-African Private Sector Trade and Investment Committee (PAFTRAC) is pushing to have an African on the seat as the continent seeks to crawl back its significance in global trade. In the most recent, Africa has been falling away in its net contribution to global trade whilst the global scene has been overshadowed by the ongoing US-China trade spat. “Africa which is home to about 17 per cent of the world population accounts for less than three per cent of global trade. What an imbalance, when you compare that to the 1970’s when the origin accounted for 4.4 per cent of global trade. What has gone on overtime for African to be losing ground?” posed Afreximbank Chief Economist Dr. Hippolyte Fofack. According to an Africa CEO Trade Survey by PAFTRAC published on Thursday, the continent’s trade stakeholders feel disenfranchised as members of the WTO. For instance, only four per cent the 200 CEOs found the WTO as highly effective while 80 per cent of the executives sighted difficulties in both global and intra-Africa trading. Nevertheless, African CEOs remain upbeat about the multilateral trade system. The African private sector is seeking on gaining a stronger collective voice and reforming the WTO. Kenya will be banking on CS Amina Mohammed to deliver a brace of international glory in the year having recently captured a rotational non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. CS Amina is seen as a front-runner in the race based on her vast experience in international relations and trade. In 2015, CS Amina became the first African to chair WTO’s highest forum in 2015, hosted in Nairobi, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The WTO has never had an African as its Director General during its 70-year existence.

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