OPEC hails Okonjo-Iweala’s WTO appointment

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The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has congratulated Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on her appointment as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The OPEC Secretary-General, Dr. Barkindo Mohammad, disclosed this in a congratulatory message made available to reporters on Monday, in Abuja.

Recall that Okonjo-Iweala, 66, was appointed director-general of the WTO  on Monday by representatives of the 164 member countries.

“ On behalf of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, allow me to formally extend our sincere and heartfelt congratulations to Your Excellency on your fully deserved appointment as the newly elected Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

“We wish you every success in your new role leading the WTO, a key organisation for the effective functioning of the global economy, and in helping trade flow as freely as possible.

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“ We commend the wisdom of the General Council of the WTO for the historic nature of your appointment, as you are the first woman and first person from the continent of Africa, to take up the reigns of the organisation.

“The breadth of support that Your Excellency received during this campaign is testimony to your suitability for the role and lifetime of public service to both our beloved home country, Nigeria and the international community,’’ he said.

Mohammad noted that Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy received support from every geographical region and all categories of  members recognised in the WTO provisions.

According to him, the appointment comes at an extremely challenging time for the world and the WTO.

“Global trade has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, support for the multilateral system needs to be bolstered and the WTO, under your leadership, will embark on a period of substantive and procedural reform.

“ However, I know from your lengthy and successful career as a highly-respected economist, an international development expert who worked for 25 years at the World Bank, a diplomat and your two terms as Finance Minister in Nigeria that you are more than up to the task.

“Yours is a career replete with achievements,’’ he added.

Mohammad recalled when in 2005, as Minister of Finance for Nigeria, Okonjo-Iweala,  successfully led a team that negotiated an 18 billion dollar debt write-off with the Paris Club.

This, he said, enabled Nigeria to obtain its first-ever sovereign-debt rating.

“At the World Bank, you fronted several initiatives that supported low-income countries, including raising almost 50 billion dollars  from donors in an aid campaign for the International Development Association.

“Your leadership capabilities, your deep knowledge and your astute judgement and negotiating skills, will be warmly welcomed at the WTO.

“You have continuously conducted yourself with the highest standards of professionalism, honesty, integrity and courage. I can think of no-one better for the position.

“It is also an extremely proud day for our home country of Nigeria, and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, who recognised your distinctive and impressive credentials for the role and campaigned tirelessly in talking with world leaders to seek support for your candidacy.

“I am sure your appointment is being lauded across the whole of Nigeria,’’ he said.

Mohammad said that the historic nature of Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment would inspire women and girls across the globe to become more involved in trade-related professions and aspire to leadership positions in international organisations.

“As an inter-governmental association, OPEC is a proud member of the multilateral system. We are continuously exploring opportunities to strengthen our relations with like-minded international organisations who share our values.

“In this regard, I look forward to having an opportunity to discuss in person the possibilities of enhancing relations between the WTO and OPEC.

“ For supporters of multi-nationalism everywhere, it is reassuring to know that your capable hands are now guiding the WTO,’’ he said

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