March 7, 2021
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WTO must regulate E-commerce, digital economy to ensure fairness – Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) preferred candidate for the office of director-general on Friday, identified the need for a set of regulations to guide countries and businesses while engaging in internet-based trading activities.

She said the ‘rules’ became important to ensure fairness and considering the current and potential growth of Electronic Commerce (E-Commerce) and digital economy globally.

The former Managing Director of World Bank spoke during news and current affairs programme on Arise Television.

She also shared some of her plans if she eventually emerges next director-general of the WTO.

“We have now seen how powerful the digital economy is and will be for the future and how important e-commerce is. And I know that for us in Nigeria and everywhere, it’s going to be more and more important.

“So it’s a form of trade. People are trading on the internet and the WTO needs to develop rules that undergird this trade, to make sure it’s fair on all the countries and the businesses people participating,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

The Nigerian former minister of finance  had contested for the top WTO position and appeared to be coasting home to victory until the United States of America opposed her candidacy.

The US threw its weight behind South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee, a close rival to Okonjo-Iweala.

“[They said] she would be able to hit the ground running,” Keith Rockwell, WTO Spokesperson said while explaining rationality behind US support for Myung-hee.

“They said they could not endorse Dr Ngozi. I don’t know the reasons for that.”

WTO is a global organisation with 164 members and observer governments. It is essentially a forum for negotiating trade agreements. It could also be described as “a place where member governments go, to try to sort out trade problems they face with each other.”

As of date, the US government is yet to rescind its decision.

The African Union has howver maintained its support for the Nigerian candidate.

Willie Obiano, the Anambra State Government has also tasked President Muhammadu Buhari to seek the European Union’s support for Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy.

Speaking further on her plans, Okonjo-Iweala wanted the WTO to work with member nations to discuss important negotiations on key issues such as assisting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), sustainable fisheries for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and assisting African nations to get better in their trading system.

“I’m also excited about how we can try to help small and medium enterprises. Women in trade to break into regional and global value-chains so that they can also improve their businesses and standard of living.”

“We have the area of fisheries. There are ongoing global multilateral negotiations now on fisheries subsidies, and how we can make the world fisheries more sustainable for all and clear our oceans of all those plastics and other things that are impeding. That is very important for the SDGs and we need to complete those negotiations now,” she added.

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