The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


WTO Profile: Alan John Kwadwo Kyerematen, Ghana:

Alan Kyerematen (WTO/Studio Casagrande)
Alan Kyerematen (WTO/Studio Casagrande)
GENEVA — Alan Kyerematen, a former Ghana trade and industry minister and ambassador to the United States, made the case that he should be the next director-general of the World Trade Organization to the WTO General Council and to the press on Tuesday.

Kyerematen has been endorsed by the African Union, but must still address the fact that there is another African candidate, Amina Mohamed of Kenya.

In his presentation to the General Council, Kyerematen premised his candidacy on the establishment of a “new trade consensus.”

“The WTO needs new energy,” Kyerematen said in his speech. “The stalemate in negotiations threatens to weaken the functioning of the system as a whole. Governments are increasingly looking elsewhere. Persistent failure to agree erodes confidence in the system. Furthermore, existing agreements that do not keep pace with changing realities will lose relevance and respect.”

The consensus, he said, must include agriculture.

“Issues such as agriculture remain crucially important not only to the negotiations, but also to the lives of people,” he said. “The WTO has an important contribution to make to the global campaign for food security. And the cotton issue must remain a priority. The WTO must deliver on all of our agreed agenda, particularly on the development dimension.”

On a larger scale, he said, the consensus must include improving market access in the leading trading nations, including through the removal of tariff peaks, tariff escalation and non-tariff barriers and improving access to trade finance for developing countries.

But Kyerematen also said that his skills and job experience “make me the right person to help the WTO meet the development challenge.”

Educated at the University of Ghana, he was also a Hubert Humphrey Fellow at the School of Management of the University of Minnesota, under the U.S. Fulbright Fellowship Program. After working for a subsidiary of Unilever and for the United Nations Development Program, Kyerematen served as Ghana’s ambassador to the United States from 2001 to 2003.

In that role, he negotiated various trade and investment agreements with and the United States, and initiated the establishment of the Ghana-United States Economic Council, which played a strategic role in deepening trade relations between the two countries and resolved commercial disputes through extra-judicial processes, he said.

He noted to journalists that during this period his “day job” was to negotiate on a daily basis.

Kyerematen was appointed Ghana’s minister of trade, industry and president’s special initiatives in 2003 and was reappointed to that post in 2005 with additional responsibility for private sector development. He has also been a political activist and attempted twice to take the leadership of the New Patriotic Party, according to news accounts, but he did not include that phase of his career in his biography.

Since leaving the ministry in 2007 he has engaged mostly in private business and Africa regional development, and is currently coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

During his meeting with journalists, Kyerematen noted that the WTO provides “a firewall against protectionism. I don't think there is a replacement for this organization.”

He was asked whether the director-general should take a stand in the battle over whether increasingly wealthy countries such as Brazil should continue to be able to self-identify as developing, a status that allows them to be freed from some of the subsidy restrictions placed on developed countries. Kyerematen said that the director-general should undertake “an open, coherent” dialogue on the topic.

There needs to be debate, he said, over whether “there is a need to subdivide the existing divisions.”

Asked by a journalist how he became known in the Ghana media as “Alan Cash,” Kyerematen said it happened because in political campaigns he stressed the importance of creating jobs. In remarks to the journalists, Kyerematen said that, while a director-general needs technical skills, “in the end you have an organization to run.”

Kyerematen said he believes he has “political insights that are vital"”for the job.