Management, leadership needed to fix WTO, says Saudi candidate for top post


by Anas Alyusuf

GENEVA — Saudi Arabia’s candidate to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO) Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri said on Friday that what is needed today to lead the organization is management and leadership.

The WTO director-general should act as a link between member states and help them understand each other, Al-Tuwaijri said while addressing a virtual press conference from Geneva.

"The organization is in a state of stagnation and that reform is necessary.”

The WTO needs a fully dedicated director-general who should bring in very solid necessary reform agenda based on track records of actual delivery of mandates,” Al-Tuwaijri said. "We should focus on successes instead of disagreements," he said.

Al-Tuwaijri mentioned that with COVID-19 affects things globally will be more uncertain and difficult for trade in the world.

“The biggest issue WTO is facing today is around process people go to the design system of the WTO and they basically have no process, so what happens things get delayed,” Al-Tuwaijri said.

"It’s mainly a process enhancement challenge the next DG should focus on delivery and on process enhancement, building key performance indicators and design this so members can measure progress.” “One of the outcomes of this approach to the solution is digging deep into the root causes."

“One of the outcomes of this approach to the solution is digging deep into the root causes."

 Al-Tuwaijri explained that his experience in working with Vision 2030, which aims to move Saudi Arabia away from oil dependence, and transform the economy, makes him an ideal candidate for the head of the WTO while it is in need of reform.

“I was part of probably part of the biggest reforms that took place in recent history, a major transformation with the essence around economic diversification, job creation, and the private sector, very much the original goals of the WTO,” he said.

“If we think about now, we have the uncertainty of COVID-19, so why not rethink some of the rules, some of the processes, introduce some new ideas to the members, get this ship moving,” he said.

Responding to a question from Saudi Gazette about what’s the future of the WTO, Al-Tuwaijri said that the future of the WTO is a member choice. “I told the members it’s their organization, their goals, their choice."

“The director-general should come in as a facilitator, like a compass, if the organization is drifting away from its true north and I gave a lot of examples, the organization is drifting yes it is, is there a lot of things done recently to get it back on track maybe not”.

“What we need to do is to dig deep to find what the root causes are of this drift and how can the members collectively be aware of these root causes, and how can we in the future, which is my main point, have key performance indicators to make sure the organization doesn’t drift again,” Al-Tuwaijri said.

Al-Tuwaijri added we want to have early warning signs so when there’s a big dispute building it’s must be captured early on”.

"I want the future director-general to inherit a much better organization, I want the debate to shift from this political will into how we can go back to our original goals and delivers on them,” Al-Tuwaijri concluded.

Saudi Arabia nominated the former economy and planning minister to head WTO last week amid a last-minute international flurry of submissions to succeed the incumbent Roberto Azevedo who is stepping down in August.

Saudi Gazette report



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