DIRECTOR-GENERAL NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA
In her meetings, the Director-General again called for urgent international efforts to ramp up the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries, citing it as a moral and economic imperative.Accompanied by Deputy Director-General Angela Ellard in her discussions on trade, she underlined the importance of US support and engagement in ensuring successful outcomes at the WTO's upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12).
“I was very pleased with the positive welcome we received and the degree of support expressed for the WTO,” the Director-General said. “Everyone wants a WTO that can deliver, for people, for workers, for business and for the environment.”
“At the same time, I also heard very clearly that for the WTO to succeed, it must change, it has to update its rule book, fix its dispute settlement system, resolve differences on outstanding issues and respond to the trade challenges of the 21st century.”
In New York, the Director-General met with several heads of state, including President Akufu-Addo of Ghana, President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania, President Duque Márquez of Colombia, President Buhari of Nigeria and President Julius Bio of Sierra Leone as well as other senior officials on the sidelines of the United Nations' annual General Assembly meeting. The discussions covered issues such as vaccine equity, trade capacity in developing countries, eliminating harmful fisheries subsidies, the role of the WTO in post-pandemic recovery and how Africa can further benefit from regional and global value chains.
She also participated in a United Nations Development Programme Panel on Vaccine Equity with UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner and another panel on “Balancing the Scales of Global Health: How to erase the health gap” at the Future Investment Initiative Institute.
In Washington DC, the Director-General took part in US President Joseph Biden's Virtual COVID-19 Summit on 22 September, one of a handful of international agency heads to address the meeting. Her speech is available here. She welcomed the announcement by the United States and others to accelerate efforts to produce and distribute vaccines to low-income countries and highlighted the WTO's role in helping manufacturers ramp up production through monitoring and easing of supply chain constraints.
The Director-General and DDG Ellard also met with United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai on 22 September. The constructive discussions focused on preparations for the WTO's upcoming Ministerial Conference and the broader WTO reform agenda.
Later in the day, the Director-General and DDG Ellard met with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, where she was encouraged by the Secretary's support for the WTO and a successful outcome to the fisheries subsidies negotiations.
She and DDG Ellard also met with Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo and discussed the impact of macro fiscal issues on trade as well as debt and fiscal space challenges for low-income and lower middle-income countries and the issue of greater reallocations of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to Africa from the unprecedented $650 billion equivalent just approved by International Monetary Fund Governors to help improve liquidity, with a view to helping these countries manage the pandemic.
Also on 22 September, the Director-General and DDG Ellard met with the heads of key US trade associations — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau, the American Chemistry Council, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, the Coalition of Services Industries, and the National Foreign Trade Council. The discussion centred on the role of the associations in helping achieve a successful MC12 meeting and ensuring the WTO is responsive to the needs of business.
The Director-General and DDG Ellard also met Liz Shuler, President of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), to exchange views on how trade can be an instrument for inclusion and improving living standards.
On 23 September, the Director-General and DDG Ellard met with the US House Ways and Means Committee and the US Senate Finance Committee. They briefed committee members on the latest developments at the WTO, including preparations for MC12 and the ongoing negotiations on fisheries subsidies, agriculture, trade and health, and the prospects for discussions on WTO reform post-MC12. The Director-General welcomed the constructive engagement and support expressed by the members of Congress, who expressed strong support for the WTO but underlined the need to engage in discussions which lead to effective reform of the organization in various areas of its work and functions.