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Trading Places

Indonesia’s Tourism Minister Pangestu in Contention for World Trade Organization's Top Post

(12/28/2012) Indonesia has put forth the name of its former Trade Minister currently serving as the Minister of Tourism and the Creative Economy, Mari Elka Pangestu, to assume the leadership of the World Trade Organization.

That post is up for grabs with the term expiration of Pascal Lamy in August 2013.

Pangestu has studied in Australia and hold a doctorate in international trade from the University of California.

Countries have until Monday, December 31, 2012 to place names for consideration as the next Director General of the WTO. The final announcement will be made on May 31, 2013 when the General Council of the WTO announces its selection.

As of Friday, December 28, 2012, 12 names have been placed into contention. In addition to Pangestu, eight other candidates have been put forth from Brazil, South Korean, Costa Rica, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico and New Zealand.

It is widely believed that the next WTO Director General will not be from Europe or the United States.

Three of the current nine candidates are women.

Pangestu is a well-respected technocrat and a voice for reform in the Indonesia cabinet. Ethnically Chinese, Pangestu served as Indonesia’s Trade Ministers for seven years before being shifted to the tourism post in October 2011.

On trade matters, Pangestu is seen as a global strategist who has supported the Doha Round of global trade talks over regional trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership favored by the U.S.A.. She has been an outspoken in urging the U.S.A. to take a more global perspective in trade and grant more access to its agricultural markets.

At home, while serving as Indonesian Trade Minister, she clashed with other members of President Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono’s cabinet in opposing their desire for intense protection of domestic markets.

Pangestu’s independent voice may play in her favor for the WTO appointment. Indonesia is widely criticized internationally for its trade inhibiting import-licensing rules.

Indonesia has offered to host a majort trade minster conference of the WTO to take place in Bali in December 2013.

It is expected that additional names will be put forth for the WTO’s top job before the deadline date of December 31, 2012.