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WTO, FIFA partner despite Qatar controversy

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says the benefits of working with FIFA to create more jobs in Africa offsets the ongoing controversies surrounding Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup this year.

The WTO and FIFA signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Tuesday aimed at building up the participation of cotton-producing countries in the global soccer industry.

WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told CNBC in Geneva that “Maybe there have been controversies and we are not shying away from that.

Okonjo-Iweala’s comments come as Qatar has increasingly been put under the microscope for its treatment of migrant workers engaged in construction projects ahead of the November FIFA World Cup tournament.

Okonjo-Iweala added that “no one has shut down the World Cup and said it’s not going to take place.”

Speaking on the same panel in Geneva, FIFA President Gianni Infantino told CNBC: “Thanks to the spotlight of football, as well, many things have changed in Qatar,”

The MoU, which will be in place until December 2027, stipulates that FIFA and WTO will share information and expertise on the economic dimensions of soccer, as well as explore using soccer as a tool for women’s empowerment in less developed countries.

Infantino and Okonjo-Iweala placed soccer’s annual economic value at $268 million.

The WTO chief said she believed that the “Cotton Four” nations (Burkina Faso, Benin, Chad, and Mali) could benefit from the partnership.

Wrting by Tersoo Nicholas, Editing by Omotola Oguneye