- Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala emphasised the importance of creating a trade agenda that prioritises inclusivity and decarbonisation at the World Economic Forum (WEF).
- She also urged leaders to prioritise strategic cooperation over strategic competition, warning that “if we don’t cooperate on the things that matter together, then we’re going to perish together.”
The Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has emphasised the importance of creating a trade agenda that prioritises inclusivity and decarbonisation. Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said that the future of trade should focus on services, digitalisation, sustainability, and inclusivity.
According to a statement by WEF, many nations have seen a push to relocate manufacturing closer to consumers’ demand after supply shocks associated with port blockages, the war in Ukraine, and the pandemic. Medical products, solar panels, silicon chips, and digitisation infrastructure are among the industries being overhauled due to new pressures to increase resilience and national security.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala noted that as many countries prioritise national security in their trade policy, there is a risk that “friend-shoring” would unequally distribute the gains of economic growth. “When we talk of ‘friend-sharing,’ I don’t know who a friend is,” she said. “I don’t ever hear countries in Africa mentioned.”
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala also emphasised the importance of coordination and clear ground rules for all nations to ensure that sustainability remains at the top of the global trade agenda. According to her, as many nations seek out bilateral trade agreements, there is a risk of global trade splintering into trading blocks.
Prime Minister of Belgium, Alexander DeCroo, also spoke at the forum and said that industrial policy has become a major focus for many nations rethinking their approach to trade. He noted that “Five years ago, [industrial policy] was not a very sexy topic. Today it’s top of the agenda.”
At the TIME100 Davos Dinner, produced in partnership with SOMPO Holdings, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) managing director Kristalina Georgieva emphasised the need for collaboration to address global issues, stating that “so many of the problems we have to solve today are problems of the global commons. There is no one country that can solve them alone. We need cooperation to solve these problems; we need multilateralism.”
The WTO Chief urged leaders to make decisions that prioritise strategic cooperation over strategic competition, warning that “if we don’t cooperate on the things that matter together, then we’re going to perish together.”