WTO: Okonjo-Iweala Didn’t Threaten to Resign

A source in Zurich, Switzerland, yesterday clarified that the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, did not at any time threaten to resign her appointment at global trade body as being speculated by some media reports.

The source, however, stated that Okonjo-Iweala, the first female and first African to head the WTO, was feeling frustrated on the job.

Responding to a question on whether the director general threatened to resign her appointment, the source who pleaded to remain anonymous said: “She did not threaten. She did express quite a lot of frustration. I will tell you … she is an extraordinary person but at a very difficult job.

“I do not think it is easy to explain to someone how difficult the job actually is. There are only a handful of people that sat in that seat. I have seen closely a lot of director generals and any time you think you have a difficult job, just think about the director general of WTO.”

Also, Okonjo-Iweala was quoted to have told Bloomberg that: “I just got here, I’m enjoying what I am doing. It is a very exciting job and I am trying to have some success here.”

The apparent lack of consensus on intellectual property right, which has been hindering the transfer of technology to third world countries to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines as well as the thorny fishery subsidy negation were reportedly pilling up frustration on Okonjo-Iweala.

It was reported that the tone of negotiation at the WTO yesterday was marked with raised tampers but the source stated that what was needed currently at the WTO was how to build a convergence of opinion among members on the body of text already agreed upon the fisheries subsidies.

“Nobody pointed to any proposal and said because of them things are going backward. What they were saying is that any proposal at this stage that cannot lead to consensus is not healthy. We have text now. Putting things in there that will make it imbalance is not helpful,” source said.

The source added that the Okonjo-Iweala basically laid it on the table that not building a consensus to complete the fisheries subsidies negotiation should not be considered as an option by anyone.

“It was a sobering assessment and she made a very interesting kind of metaphor when she talked about when she was a girl how her mother used to take her to the market to teach her how to haggle with the people in the market stalls. She said that at one point everybody realises that if the price remained too high the customer will walk away.

“She, therefore, said that negotiation like this is an art form and not a science, warning that ‘we need to be conscious of the point where if you push this person too far and he says what is the point and he walks away.’

“That will bring about a very bad outcome, which means the process will breakdown and we will not get an outcome.”

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