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WTO needs urgent reform, Saudi Arabia’s candidate says

A red pedestrian traffic light is seen next to the entrance of the headquarters of the World Trade Organization in Geneva. (AFP/File)
A red pedestrian traffic light is seen next to the entrance of the headquarters of the World Trade Organization in Geneva. (AFP/File)
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20 Jul 2020 02:07:49 GMT9
20 Jul 2020 02:07:49 GMT9
  • Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri says reform of the intergovernmental organization is more necessary than ever

Rawan Radwan

JEDDAH: The World Trade Organization (WTO) is in need of urgent reform, Saudi Arabia’s candidate for the position of director general of the organization said in a statement.

Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri’s comments came after attending a global press conference at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva to discuss his vision for the organization’s future. He said that reform of the WTO was more necessary than ever, indicating that the world faced major challenges affecting the flow of global trade.

“I look forward to leading the organization and implementing reforms with the consensus of all members,” Al-Tuwaijri said. He added that the role of the WTO chief was to be an effective link between members to reach understanding while relying on a governance mechanism, as well as following up on performance through clear measurement indicators.

Al-Tuwaijri said that there was a need to study the current situation accurately to understand the roots of the challenges and to develop multiple scenarios for solutions.

“Restoring confidence in the organization must be a top priority for the new general manager, in addition to the ability to respond to the changes as this will be the most important criteria for success for the organization in the future,” he said. 

Recent months have brought further challenges to the WHO’s appellate body, which adjudicates trade disputes among member countries.

From the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of protectionist measures, Al-Tuwaijri said that the most important challenge facing the organization was “the absence of effective leadership and management.” He said the situation could benefit from the convening of the upcoming ministerial conference and adopting a more dynamic and effective negotiation methodology, stressing that the multilateral system was serving everyone, but was slowing down and must be pushed forward.

Al-Tuwaijri said that he had a vision for the organization’s work based on his long experience in the field of trade and the global economy. He said that there were priorities in global trade that required urgent attention, particularly because the world was going through changes that affected the flow of trade and required the implementation of reforms with the consensus of all members.

On the question of a female director-general, he said that he supported the involvement of women in leadership positions in the organization “as this will have a major role in the development and support of the organization in overcoming current challenges.”

The royal court adviser and former economy minister was nominated by Saudi Arabia earlier this month to be the next director general of the WTO. In its submission to the WTO, the Kingdom affirmed its belief in a multilateral trading system and the vital role the organization plays in supporting it.

The Geneva-based WTO usually decides on its director-general by consensus, but if there is no agreement there will be an election. The new chief takes office on Sept. 1.

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