Lisandra Flach, the Director of the Ifo Center for International Economics, called the upcoming election of a new director-general for the World Trade Organization a “unique opportunity.” After the difficult Trump years, she said, there is now a chance to breathe new life into international trade negotiations and achieve a more stable system that is not based on unilateral relationships. Trust must be rebuilt, Flach said in Munich on Monday.
Flach described the Nigerian candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as experienced in matters of finance and development and capable of soothing tensions between countries. She added that mediating today’s difficult relations among WTO members calls for political acumen – a key skill that Ms Okonjo-Iweala possesses – because the director-general can implement reforms only if the members are willing to back them.
At a time when many small trade barriers have been erected because of the coronavirus, this is a significant consideration, Flach pointed out. However, the current crisis is also a good opportunity to showcase the central role of multilateralism and cooperation. In this respect, too, Okonjo-Iweala brings relevant experience as chair of the global vaccination alliance GAVI.
Moreover, dispute resolution within the World Trade Organization needs reform, and trade in digital services and cross-border climate certificates has to be regulated.