The Saudi candidate for the presidency of the World Trade Organization, Mohammad al-Tuwaijri, said the WTO was in paralysis and needed a pragmatic new director-general to lead reforms.
During a press conference organized by the Geneva Press Club on Wednesday, Tuwaijri said the WTO, which was established in 1995, needed reform.
“Twenty-five years; in my mind, every organization in the world - regardless of the external environment, which is severe in our case - must have the fresh restart,” he stated.
Tuwaijri, 53, is competing with seven other candidates to succeed Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, who left office at the end of August, a year before his term expired.
The Saudi candidate warned that the WTO was in paralysis due to the ongoing trade war between the United States and China - the world’s two largest economic powers, US President Donald Trump’s mistrust of the global trade body and a lack of re-evaluation within the organization itself.
“My approach is around practical leadership… We need to really listen to members, but be very impartial, give ideas,” he told the press conference.
Tuwaijri emphasized the need to reform the WTO in order to regain the trust of its members, particularly by reviving trade negotiations, which have been blocked up for years.
On Covid-19, he noted that the health crisis would change world trade and the global economy, making it “a window of opportunity to bring back the multilateral trading system.”
Rather than elections, the WTO selects its director-general through consensus-building.
The Chair of the General Council, together with the chairs of the Dispute Settlement Body and the Trade Policy Review Body, have started to consult with all WTO members to assess their preferences and seek to determine which candidate is best placed to attract consensus support.
Nominations closed on July 8. The eight candidates for the WTO presidency will be reduced to five on Friday and then to three in October, with a final decision likely in November.
Tuwaijri has recently launched a website in four languages, in which he explained the features of a major action plan aimed at comprehensive reform in the trade organization, taking into account the changes in balance of power, the acceleration of global technological advances, and international developments.