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Okonjo-Iweala Emerges WTO DG

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Weeks after advancing to the final stage of vetting process to become the director general of the World Trade Organization, Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has emerged winner of the highly competitive race after polling 104 votes from 164 member countries to defeat her opponent, South Korea’s trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee.

Few weeks ago, the chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat has said Okonjo-Iweala is “by far the best qualified candidate to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO).

According to Reuters on Wednesday, a key group of WTO ambassadors proposed Okonjo-Iweala to lead the trade organization.

The official announcement is expected to be made later today by WTO.

With the development, the former Nigerian finance minister is set to become the first female and first African to occupy the office.

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FEC Approves Finance Bill, Says No Tax Increase

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The federal executive council has approved the 2020 finance bill.

Minister of finance, budget and national planning, Zainab Ahmed, briefed state house correspondents at the end of the FEC meeting chaired by president Muhammadu Buhari.

Ahmed says the finance bill is meant to support the 2021 fiscal year budget.

The minister gave an assurance that the bill will not lead to an increase in taxes because the situation in the country does not warrant such tax increase.

The minister further explained that, in last year’s finance bill, the federal government reduced taxes from 30 percent to 20 percent for enterprises that have turnover of between twenty-five million naira to a hundred million.  It also zeroed taxes from 30 percent for enterprises that have turnover of n25m and below.

She says the 2020 finance bill is to further renew the education tax of two percent for that lower category of enterprises that have turnover of N25m and below.

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US Opposes Okonjo-Iweala’s WTO Appointment 

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The United States is trying to throw a monkey-wrench in the appointment of Nigeria’s former two-time finance minister as the first African director-general of the World Trade Organization.

The U.S. has been at odds with the WTO on how it handles global trade.  It had thrown its support behind South Korea’s trade minister, Yoo Myung-Hee whom the U.S. believes could bring reforms to the organization.  The U.S. says it wants the WTO led by someone with real hand-on experience in the field.

This does not mean Okonjo-Iweala would not become the organization’s boss.  WTO’s spokesman, Keith Rockwell said on Wednesday just one country, the U.S., did not support Okonjo-Iweala, but she has the backing of all 27 European Union countries.

Unlike the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, appointments like this for the WTO require the votes of each of the one hundred sixty-four member countries.  A majority of those votes would get her through.

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Covid-19 Pandemic: World Trade To Fall By Up To 32% In 2020 – WTO

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World trade is expected to fall by between 13 and 32 percent this year as the covid-19 pandemic disrupts normal economic activity and life around the world.

The World Trade Organization has said in its annual trade statistics and outlook report that that the decline would likely exceed the trade slump brought on by the global financial crisis of 2008.

The report’s estimates of the expected recovery in 2021 are equally uncertain, with outcomes depending largely on the duration of the outbreak and the effectiveness of the policy responses.

WTO director-general, Roberto Azevedo says “the immediate goal is to bring the pandemic under control and mitigate the economic damage to people, companies and countries.  He recommends policymakers begin planning for the aftermath of the pandemic.

Azevedo said a rapid and vigorous rebound is possible if countries work together rather than if each country acts alone.

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