Interview with WTO Candidate Alan Kyerematen

March 12, 2013

My guest on this Wonkcast is Alan Kyerematen, Ghana's former Minister of Trade, Industry and President’s Special Initiatives and one of nine candidates to be the next head of the World Trade Organization (WTO). In our interview, Minister Kyerematen tells me he possesses the skills and vision needed to lead the WTO. “My sense is that the WTO is a very important global asset which has contributed significantly to the global economy and is perhaps the most powerful instrument for global economic recovery. But there are challenges confronting the organization and it needs a new leader that has the strategic vision to lead it into the future,” he says. Minister Kyerematen tells me his time as Ghana’s trade minister has equipped him with the technical skills required of the next WTO director general. He says this, combined with his political intuition, experience as a lawyer, economist, and policy analyst, make him a highly qualified leader. If selected to be the next director general, Minister Kyermaten says he would propose a new strategic framework for building consensus within the WTO. This consensus—which he calls the New Trade Consensus—would make it possible for WTO members to finally complete the Doha development round of trade talks underway since 2001. “We need to secure specific, concrete, realistic outcomes for the next round of [ministerial-level] trade talks in Bali,” in December, he says. “The outcomes must be based on very specific issues on which members have convergence—for example, trade facilitation.” Once specific outcomes are agreed on, a roadmap and timeframe can be more easily drawn up in order to conclude the Doha round, Minister Kyerematen explains.  Beyond Doha, the minister says he plans to define a strategic direction for the future of the multilateral trading system. For example, newly emerging economies and changes in global dynamics need to be analyzed and fed into a dialogue process. I asked how he would tackle possible future issues, such as climate change and the possibility of border-adjustment carbon charges. “We’re interested in the connectivity between climate change and trade, and I believe that’s a more focused and limited discussion that should be part of the new issues,” he says. He adds that issues relating to currency exchange, energy, and the increasing influence of domestic constituencies in shaping trading policy on the multinational level, are among the other emerging issues requiring attention. I conclude the interview by asking Minister Kyerematen to comment on the role of the WTO as an intermediary between big trading powers and smaller ones. “WTO provisions were meant to create a level playing field and give the opportunity for weaker, developing countries to play a role in global trade,” he explains. “But my own sense is we need to have a more robust and dynamic approach to development which goes beyond special treatment to empower small and medium enterprises to be able to compete in international markets.” The full interview is available below. This is the third in a planned series of Wonkcasts with candidates to become the next director general of the WTO. To learn when the interviews are posted, sign up for our weekly Development Update. My thanks to Alex Gordon for editing the Wonkcast and providing a draft of this blog post.


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