DIRECTOR-GENERAL NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA

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The Director-General met bilaterally with United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai. The meeting focused on scaling up the global COVID-19 response and addressing gaps in the global production and distribution of vaccines, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies and the broader WTO reform agenda.

She also took part in the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, where she had discussions with the respective agency heads as well as the Managing Director of the International Finance Corporation.

At the end of the week, the Director-General said:

“In all of my discussions in Washington, D.C. it was clearer than ever that a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic means rapid, equitable access to vaccines, especially in developing and least developed countries. Continued vaccine scarcity and the related threat of dangerous new viral variants are the top risks to the rebound in global economic activity and trade: nobody will be safe until everyone is safe.

“The global community must act, and the WTO has its contribution to make. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva says that ‘vaccine policy is economic policy’. Vaccine policy is trade policy too — and vice versa. Through the pandemic, trade and supply chains have helped countries meet skyrocketing demand for medical products like personal protective equipment. We must continue this by facilitating the cross-border flow of vaccines and vaccine components. And I firmly believe the WTO can do more to catalyse increased vaccine production volumes to combat the current scarcity and save lives now, while ensuring better access to medical technologies in future health crises. This is a priority for me, and I will continue to work with all WTO members to achieve that, and ensure trade serves the people and the planet.”

DG Okonjo-Iweala addressed the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), a key meeting of finance ministers and central bankers. She underscored the positive role trade had played in the crisis and argued that open and predictable markets would contribute to the recovery. She called for more coherence among fiscal, monetary, development and trade policies and highlighted the importance of integrating women and smaller businesses more firmly into a greener and more digital global economy.

The Director-General also participated in the joint World Bank-IMF Development Committee and high-profile public events, including an IMF debate on the global economy and a World Bank panel on COVID-19 vaccine access for developing countries.

Cooperation between the WTO and the Washington, D.C.-based organizations also featured prominently during the week's discussions. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva pledged the IMF's support to the WTO as it works “to reform trade so it continues to generate growth, jobs and improvements in living standards”. World Bank President David Malpass looked forward to “having a strong focus on trade facilitation and development in future Development Committee meetings”. Both wished DG Okonjo-Iweala the best in her new role.

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