Saudi Arabia aims to revamp WTO in favor of all members
For a country that is a founding member of OPEC as the biggest oil producer with the largest oil reserves in the world, for a country bordering seven others, for a country hosting the two holy sites where millions of Muslims perform their annual pilgrimage and, last but not least, for a country that is a member of the G20 club, Saudi Arabia is well-positioned to nominate its representative, Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO) as its director general.
The WTO is a member-driven organization established on common agreed goals. It has had its successes over the years but, at the same time, it has deep-rooted problems, especially when it comes to disputes.
The world has changed significantly since the body’s establishment 25 years ago and its modus operandi has to be modified to cope with the new world order - not to mention the impact of COVID-19 - in the short and long term.
Experts believe that the WTO needs to improve its process system in order to meet the needs of its members in a timely fashion, especially in terms of negotiations and settling disputes. Hence, to meet the process enhancement challenge, you need a director general with management and leadership qualities where he or she can implement a new modus operandi with accountability and key performance indicators.
For that reason, the chosen director general has to be a well-rounded candidate who has been actively involved in handling private and public sector challenges and has gone through transformation and performance measurements.
I have known the Saudi candidate for years during his banking leadership roles with leading global financial institutions, as well as dealing with him as a minister of economy and planning. My last encounter with him was in January this year at Davos, where he showed the most practical option and strategy for the entry of a leading global logistics player to benefit from a Saudi-based operation as a hub for its expansion and growth to serve the Chinese and Indian markets.
In my opinion, the WTO needs a director general who is a seasoned professional with relevant experience and in-depth knowledge of what is required to revamp the WTO.
Other candidates — representing Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, the UK, South Korea, Moldova and Mexico — are very qualified with a long history of credentials in internal trade and other fields. But, without being biased, I do find the Saudi nominee is more suited for the post because of his 360-degree exposure to local, regional and global trading and banking, coupled with his role as a minister of economy and planning where he was instrumental in the economy’s transformation process under the country’s Vision 2030 reform plan.
Together with the political will of Saudi Arabia as a key G20 member I strongly believe that Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri is best suited to lead the WTO in the future.
Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.