NAIROBI, KENYA: The East African Business Council (EABC) has endorsed sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed for the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Director-General position.
In a statement, the outfit noted that Amina joining the WTO will be timely as Africa is keenly focusing on the African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“She is a strong advocate for the actualization of the AfCFTA and has also chaired the WTO’s 10th Ministerial Conference held in Nairobi in 2015, the Dispute Settlement Body and the WTO’s General Council in 2005, her passion for international trade, exemplary strategic leadership, diplomatic and negotiation skills maker her the right candidate for the job,” said Peter Mathuki, CEO East African Business Council.
Her success in the position will be a great opportunity for the EAC bloc and Africa towards championing global economic policy to increase the continent’s share in global trade.
“The business community in East Africa is assured that Amb. Mohamed will steer the WTO to greater heights. As a former Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic of Kenya she is bold and proficient, it will be an honour for the continent to have the first African and first woman as the Director-General of the WTO,” said Dr. Mathuki.
Mohamed said on Monday she is seeking Washington’s backing and expressed some sympathy with its criticism of the global body as she emerges as one of two reform-minded African female frontrunners.
Delegates say Mohamed, a 58-year-old minister, and former WTO chair, is one of the favourites alongside Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to replace Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo as director-general, although weeks of campaigning lie ahead.
The WTO has never been led by a woman or an African.
“The rulebook needs to be upgraded because of the concerns that are being expressed about the rules not being fit for purpose,” she said, adding that resuming the top appeals court would be a priority and that she hoped this would be on the agenda of the next major WTO meeting in 2021.
The United States has paralysed the Appellate Body by blocking new judges.
In an apparent nod to Washington, she referred to concerns about the body’s “overreach”.
Asked if that meant she sympathised with the U.S. position, she said: “Those concerns that have been raised, they would not have been raised if they did not have solid reason to raise them.”
The U.S. mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mohamed’s supporters say she combines deep WTO knowledge with a drive to overhaul its 25-year-old rules. “The difference between me and them is I have worked this system,” she said.
However, she must win over those African countries who have expressed support for Okonjo-Iweala.
Over the past week, countries have been hosting Geneva cocktail parties to showcase candidates.
The WTO eliminates them in batches, starting with those unlikely to win consensus from 164 members.
Additional Report by Reuters