Covid is no ex­cuse for trade bat­tle, warns WTO hope­ful

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Lizzy Bur­den

COVID-19 has ush­ered in an “ex­cuse cul­ture” in global trade, ac­cord­ing to Saudi Ara­bia’s can­di­date to lead the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WTO).

Mo­ham­mad al-Tuwai­jri, one of eight nom­i­nees to re­place Roberto Azevedo as the Geneva-based body’s di­rec­tor­gen­eral, said: “Peo­ple want to pro­tect their cit­i­zens, to pro­tect their economies. [The pan­demic] can be used as an ex­cuse to put pro­tec­tion­ism on the ta­ble to do things out­side the WTO.

“We can change that if we … use Covid-19 as an op­por­tu­nity to re­assess how the or­gan­i­sa­tion will work in the fu­ture.”

Gov­ern­ments have pumped tril­lions of dol­lars into their economies to keep them afloat post-Covid, ig­nit­ing ten­sions about state aid. Mean­while, WTO data shows that from Oc­to­ber to May, mem­ber states in­tro­duced 165 mea­sures to re­strict flows of goods – the ma­jor­ity linked to the pan­demic.

Mr Tuwai­jri said his ex­pe­ri­ence as the Saudi econ­omy min­is­ter dur­ing “one of the most am­bi­tious trans­for­ma­tions in re­cent his­tory” in­clud­ing “em­pow­er­ing women and the pri­vate sec­tor” made him the best can­di­date to re­form the WTO.

He added that a Saudi direc­tor-gen­eral would be well po­si­tioned to act as a bridge be­tween mem­ber na­tions given the coun­try’s “very neu­tral re­la­tion­ships with the rest of the world”, ac­knowl­edg­ing that he would have a “ma­jor role” to play in re­solv­ing the US-China trade war.

Don­ald Trump, the US pres­i­dent, can­celled talks sched­uled for to­mor­row be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing about the fu­ture of their phase one trade deal, signed in Jan­uary, blam­ing China for the spread of the virus.

Other con­tenders to be­come direc­tor-gen­eral when Mr Azevedo leaves next month in­clude the for­mer in­ter­na­tional trade sec­re­tary Liam Fox, Bri­tain’s can­di­date.

The favourites are Ngozi Okon­joIweala, ex-Nige­rian fi­nance min­is­ter; and Amina Mo­hamed, the Kenyan cul­ture sec­re­tary.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.