“It’s not going to be easy,” Amina Mohamed on fixing world trade at the WTO

PUBLISHED: Mon, 20 Jul 2020 15:36:18 GMT

By Zinathi Gquma

“It’s not going to be easy, but I think it’s a challenge that can be met”, the words of Amina Mohamed, one of the three African candidates vying for the World Trade Organisation’s top job.

Talking to CNBC Africa’s Chris Bishop, Kenya’s Sports Cabinet Secretary promised reforms, as she acknowledged that the job will come with challenges. She was speaking from Geneva where she sat down for her interview for the post before scores of WTO delegates on July 16. The interview entailed a 15-minute presentation followed by a 75-minute grilling.

Mohammed is considered a front runner among of six candidates in the race for the Director-General position at the WTO. The other five hopefuls are:Yoo Myung-hee from South Korea; Jesus Seade Kuri from Mexico; Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Egypt’s Hamid Mamdouh; and Tudor Ulianovschi from Moldova.

The spotlight has been shone on Mohamed, because she could make history as the first African-born woman at the top seat of the body that deals with global rules of trade between nations.

Mohamed, a lawyer who has held key decision making positions in the WTO, could be second time lucky; she lost out on the job in 2013, to Brazil’s Roberto Azevêdo who will be stepping down at the end of August.

“I have worked the corridors of the body and I have a track record of delivery at the WTO”, said Mohamed to Bishop, as she was speaking on her extensive knowledge of the WTO’s work. In 2005, Mohammed was the Chairperson of the General Council, the highest-level decision-making body in Geneva.

Mohamed has acknowledged that the job of Director-General will not be a walk in the park, because the WTO was already troubled before the Covid-19 pandemic. Admitting that the next leader would have to walk a tight rope, as they deal with mammoth challenges within the organisation, she is willing to inject confidence into the system. She has expressed her commitment to tackle challenges and to move the organisation forward through recovery, reform, renewal and results.

With her knowledge of member states’ goals, she is promising to facilitate talks on reforms within the body. With the negative effects of climate change, Mohamed vowed to promote sustainability. Looking at benefits to the African continent, through her potential role as Director-General, she will encourage integration in the African region. She has also promised to use the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, as an engine for growth.

“I’m convinced that if I got the job, I would work energetically, but very sensitively and reasonably to make sure that members come together to address issues that are of concern to all members states. The issues that if resolved, will drive the global economy,” said Mohamed.

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