Trade must serve to “overcome inequalities”

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during the selection process for director general of the World Trade Organization. Photo: ©WTO/Jay Louvion
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala during the selection process for director general of the World Trade Organization. Photo: ©WTO/Jay Louvion

LWF president sends congratulations to Okonjo-Iweala, first woman and first African to head World Trade Organization

(LWI) - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa has sent congratulations to the new director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, saying her vision and values “are desperately needed in today’s world.”

Okonjo-Iweala will take up the post on 1 March, becoming the first African and the first woman to head the global trade body. She previously served as managing director at the World Bank and chair of Gavi, the global vaccine alliance.

In a letter, sent on behalf of the LWF’s 148 member churches, President Musa notes that Okonjo-Iweala also broke new ground in her previous roles as finance minister and minister for foreign affairs in their shared home country of Nigeria. In all of these tasks, he says, “you have shown integrity and accountability.”

Equal access of girls to education

The LWF leader writes: “Your appointment and service in these roles has and continues to inspire girls and women in African and around the world and is an encouragement to all who seek to promote the equal access of girls to education.” He adds: “You are taking on a vital role at a time when clear vision and strong leadership are needed.”

Following her appointment, Okonjo-Iweala said that combating the COVID-19 pandemic would be a top priority for her, “both on the health side but also on the economic side.” In his letter, the LWF president says that the WTO’s leadership will be critical in addressing the role of intellectual property rights, in the context of the development and distribution of vaccines.

He continues: “I believe your experience of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as special envoy of the African Union will be vital as you take on this leadership role in rebuilding the world economy.” This must be done “in a manner which promotes equity and fairness,” Musa says.

Trade in a globalized world must always overcome inequalities, never exacerbate them.
LWF President Archbishop Dr Panti Filibus Musa

Looking ahead to key issues facing the WTO, the LWF leader speaks of the digital economy, eCommerce, the green and circular economies and the growing pushback on the multilateral trading system. “My hope is,” he writes, “that equity and equality between people and nations will be a guiding light as you work on these issues, so that global trade may be to the benefit of all, especially those who are already disadvantaged.” Trade in a globalized world “must always overcome inequalities, never exacerbate them,” he insists.

Offering prayers to Okonjo-Iweala at the start of her term of office, Musa says: “As president of the Lutheran World Federation, with a deep and long-standing commitment to human rights and the dignity of all, I want you to know that we stand ready to support you and your work for justice, equity and equality.”

LWF/P.Hitchen