Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who in 2021 became the first woman and first African to head the World Trade Organisation, has given a robust defence of her work at a time when global organisations are coming under criticism.
“If you’re looking for a place where multilateralism is working despite the tensions, it’s the WTO,” she told the BBC’s HardTalk programme.
In the last few decades, during a time of what has been described as globalisation, the WTO has worked to reduce barriers to trade around the world. But in recent years that approach seems to have come under threat as protectionism has become more fashionable again.
In addition, tensions over Ukraine and other issues, has put multilateral cooperation under threat.
But Ms Okonjo-Iweala sees her work as vital in maintaining the global system where people, particularly those in the developing world, can benefit.
Talking to the BBC’s Stephen Sackur, she cited a number of deals that have improved access to agricultural produce, as examples of the continued effectiveness of the WTO. She also said the organisation was vital in brokering an agreement that allowed for humanitarian access to global food supplies, despite the war in Ukraine.
She added that she was determined to show that the WTO was relevant for all people.
“If people in my village do not know what the WTO is about there is a problem, so we need to bring people back into the WTO.”
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