Kenya’s nominee for the post of Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Amina Mohammed, has outlined her immediate priorities if she is elected for the top job at the Geneva-based organization.
Mohamed has promised to establish a new WTO implementation and trade opening coalition which will be an inclusive and transport trade alliance that reflects ‘enlargement’ of the WTO membership through the recent expansion in the membership of the organization.
“This will entail shared commensurate responsibilities in a rules-based system,” Mohamed said in a statement issued in Nairobi on Friday by the foreign ministry.
Mohamed, a career diplomat who is currently the Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, a position to which she was appointed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in April 2011 will fight it out with 8 contenders keen to replace Pascal Lamy whose term ends in Aug. 31.
Others are Ahmad Thougan Hidawi (Jordan), Herminio Blanco (Mexico), Taeho Bark (South Korea) and Roberto Carvalho de Azevedo (Brazil).
She also pledged to focus on an updated agenda for multilateral trade negotiations relevant to the contemporary challenges of recovery from economic crises, growth and employment, environmental protection, notably climate change and food security.
Mohamed said her third priority will involve consultation with member states to establish a WTO Business Advisory Council.
“The absence of a commercial push has been a source of weakness for the WTO, affecting its credibility and relevance as an engine of global economic recovery and growth,” the statement said.
“I will be a pro-business director-general. Concluding the Trade Facilitation negotiations would be one of the key interfaces to better engage the private sector and global business,” she added.
The Doha Round of negotiations was launched in 2001 with an explicit focus on addressing the needs of developing countries but has stalled due to differences between developing and developed countries on a number of issues.
Accomplished diplomat with impressive credentials, Mohamed’s vast capabilities, skills and accomplishments have rightfully earned her the reputation of one of Kenya’s finest.
As Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN Office in Geneva, Mohamed had occasion to chair the WTO General Council in 2005, where she presided over the selection process of the incumbent, Lamy, for his first term.
During her tenure, she also chaired the Dispute Settlement Body and the Trade Policy Review Body. The foreign ministry said Mohamed has a real chance of being the first ever African or a woman to head WTO and General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
Mohammed who has been touring European and Asian countries to shore up her support for the post, said her candidature is not on the basis of “Regional Turn, or Buggins Turn” but rather that; “I am basing my bid for the position of WTO director-general on the platform of open competition, rational debate, fairness and a fair- hearing for all candidates.”
She said the multilateral trading system, anchored in the WTO was fundamentally sound and in good shape.
“It remains the sole and undisputed guardian of the rules-based trading system as it is an indispensable organization for rule- setting and adjudication of disputes. If it did not exist, we would have to create it.”
Mohammed noted that the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) is the most effective in public International Law and was performing well.
“When selected director-general, I will work to ensure the consolidation and preservation of the current acquits of the rules- based multilateral trading system. It is a high value. We must work to protect it from the constant assault and contagion of protectionism,” she said.
“As director-general in a member-driven organization, I plan to dedicate my energies to addressing these challenges in partnership with the WTO member states and the heads of other multilateral institutions,” Mohamed said.
The Kenyan nominee also promised to set out a clear and focused vision of priorities for the WTO if members decide to elect her as WTO direct-general.
“My vision of the organization shall resolve around the imperative of an updated agenda for trade negotiations which is relevant to contemporary challenges in the global economy and the expansion of stakeholders to ensure the relevance of WTO,” she said.
She said her role in the WTO will include monitoring and reporting on trade policy trends of relevant for the global economy, facilitate stable negotiating consensus and operate in coordination with key multilateral institutions so that the organization remains nimble and relevant in global problem solving.
She said there is acknowledgement among many governments that its the turn of an African to lead the WTO. She said failure to conclude the Doha Development Agenda trade negotiations has caused a dent in the image of the trade body.
Mohammed’s message to trade ministers in Brussels, Beijing and New Delhi as well as in other capitals during her recent global tour was that she could turn around the organization based on her experience at the trade body from 2000 to 2005.
A formal WTO General Council meeting was held on Jan. 29 where candidates presented themselves to the membership. The selection process will conclude with a decision by the General Council no later than May 31.