Ambassador Stuart Comberbach presents credentials to WTO boss

The newly inaugurated Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, today received Letters of Credence from Ambassador Stuart Harold Comberbach, reflecting his appointment by His Excellency President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, as Permanent Representative of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the Geneva-based World Trade Organisation.

On behalf of His Excellency the President, the Ambassador conveyed sincere congratulations to the Director-General on her appointment – the first African and the first woman to lead the Organisation – and wished her every success in the challenging task before her.

Welcoming Ambassador Comberbach to Geneva and to the WTO and congratulating Zimbabwe on the 41st anniversary of its Independence, Dr Okonjo-Iweala expressed her deep appreciation to His Excellency the President for the unstinting support which, since the very onset of her campaign for the Director-Generalship of the organisation, had been forthcoming from Zimbabwe.

She said that she looked forward to working closely with the Ambassador, with Zimbabwe, with Africa and with all developing countries in the search for practical solutions to the multiple challenges which continue to confront the WTO – not the least of which was the undermining of the global multilateral, rules-based system over the past several years by those whose approach tended to be more unilateral, self-centred and nationalistic in nature.

Escalating trade tensions and a rise in protectionism, the virtual standstill with regard to implementation of the Doha Development Agenda, the effort, by some, to move away from the concept of special and differential treatment for developing countries and the long-standing impasse surrounding the WTO’s Dispute Settlement System were all flagged during the discussions as key challenges to be addressed.

The Director General confirmed that the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) would take place in Geneva in December, 2021, in a yet-to-be decided format, and that she was already deeply and actively engaged with key stakeholders – including the African Group in Geneva – with a view to identifying practical deliverables – reflecting WTO’s contribution, within the broader global system, towards finding solutions for today’s problems.

Key within that context, of course, was how WTO could contribute towards a sustainable response to the current Covid-19 pandemic – specifically with regard to vaccine production and supply – and how Trade Ministers, by way of MC12, and on the basis of lessons learned, could add to what must be a global collaborative, cohesive and fully-inclusive framework for dealing with any future pandemics.

The meeting concluded with Ambassador Comberbach stressing that the New Dispensation in Zimbabwe was fully committed to the economic, political and legislative reform programme articulated by His Excellency the President when he assumed office in November, 2017.

Zimbabwe’s Third Trade Policy Review, held in September/October 2020, clearly reflected this commitment and the progress attained thusfar – multiple challenges notwithstanding.