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INTERVIEW: Japanese aide vows to support WTO head on reform

  • June 23, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 5:55 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, June 23 (Jiji Press)–A former Japanese Foreign Ministry official who became senior adviser to the director-general of the World Trade Organization in May vowed to devote himself to assisting the reform-minded WTO chief.


“I’ll fully support the WTO chief who has a strong will to promote reform,” Tomochika Uyama, who became the first Japanese to take such an important post at the Geneva-based trade body, said in a recent interview.


The WTO has made little progress in making trade rules. Its dispute settlement functions do not work well due to U.S. opposition to replacing Appellate Body members.


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who became the first woman to lead the WTO in March, has been working on challenges including intellectual property waivers for COVID-19 vaccines and fisheries subsidies.


“WTO member economies are feeling her enthusiasm,” Uyama said, referring to rising momentum for reforming the organization.


Previously, Uyama was in charge of Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks at the Japanese government’s Cabinet Secretariat. At the WTO, he needs to work as a WTO official, not a Japanese government employee.


“I’ll devote myself to all members, not paying special attention to Japan,” Uyama said, suggesting that he will utilize his expertise in economic diplomacy for WTO reform.


At the WTO, which brings together experts from a variety of countries, Uyama said its decision-making procedures and organizational operation are totally different from Japanese styles.


“It’s important to build cooperative relationships by getting interested in others as a person,” he said.

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