Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Kenyan govt. counts on WTO candidate's ability to break trade impasse

Launching her campaign for the top post at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Kenyan candidate Amina Mohamed, Tuesday pledged to reform the global trade body and remove protectionist policies that limit free trade.

Mohamed, currently the deputy executive director at the Nairobi-based UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), said her key priorities would be to break the current trade impasse.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Sam Ongeri said Nairobi was confident in Ambassador Mohamed's ability to garner support across the board, having served in top positions within the global diplomatic arena, with good results in her favour.

Ongeri said Kenya was approached by several countries before it decided to nominate Ambassador Mohamed for the post.

"It was during her time that substantial progress was realized in the Hong Kong ministerial Conference. These included the waiver on market access and the amendment to the Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)," Ongeri said.

Mohamed, the former Kenyan ambassador to the UN, is reputed for helping lead the efforts that nearly brokered the stalled global trade negotiations in 2005, when she chaired the General Council of the WTO, its topmost decision-making body.

Kenyans are counting on the candidates' goodwill vote, especially amongst the wider group of developing countries, whose insistence on a fair global trading system has constantly held back progress sought by the world's richest economies.

"Current negotiations have to be made more responsive to the current global trading environment and realities," Mohamed told ministers and international diplomats in Nairobi. "We need to better engage the private sector and global business."

Kenyan officials are specifically keen on emphasizing the progress made during the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial meeting of the WTO.

"At this moment in time, the WTO needs a Director-General with the ability to bridge the current differences existing between the developing and developed countries," said Thuita Mwangi, the Permanent Secretary in the Kenyan foreign affairs ministry.

Besides, the benefits being derived from the opening up of the TRIPS which allowed the production of cheaper generic drugs developed by foreign multinationals to treat common diseases in poor countries have enhanced the chances of the Kenyan candidate, the minister said.

"My vision of the WTO shall revolve around the imperative of an updated agenda for trade negotiations which is relevant to the challenges in the global economy," she added.

Mohammed and eight other candidates are due to appear before a selection panel in Geneva, Switzerland, to articulate their vision and suitability for the job.

Ambassador Mohamed sat through the selection process of Pascal Lamy, the outgoing Director-General, during her tenure as Kenyan envoy to the UN.


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