Mari closer to WTO top post
Linda Yulisman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Sat, April 13 2013,
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(JP/Nurhayati)Indonesia has secured a place in the next selection round for
the World Trade Organization's (WTO) top post as its candidate, former trade
minister Mari Elka Pangestu, has successfully passed the first of three
Mari, the only woman candidate to have passed the first round would meet
four other candidates in the second: from Latin America, Mexico's Herminio
Blanco and Brazil's Roberto Azevedo; and from Asia Pacific, South Korea's
Taeho Bark and New Zealand's Tim Groser, Reuters reported.
The nomination of candidates from emerging economies to succeed current
leader Pascal Lamy of France, a former European Union (EU) trade chief who
will complete his second four-year term at the end of August, has been
widely seen as part of these countries' efforts to have a greater say in the
world trade governing body.
If elected, Mari, who is currently tourism and creative economy minister,
will become the first woman to lead the WTO. She was highly respected by the
world trade body during her seven-year tenure as trade minister due to her
firm stance on trade liberalization.
During many overseas trips to support her candidacy, she has highlighted the
importance of strengthening the global rules-based trading system, which is
the main goal of the WTO, and boosting trade for economic growth, job
creation and poverty reduction.
However, Mari, who once coordinated the G-33 group of developing countries,
also puts strong emphasis on accommodating the interests of developing
countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), particularly through
capacity building and effective aid for trade.
Some analysts have said that despite the high qualifications among all the
candidates, Mari still had a great chance of getting to the final round for
a variety of reasons.
Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute of
International Economics, expressed his optimism about Mari's chances, saying
that she was among the very best in terms of professional expertise,
temperament and familiarity with players in the world trading system.
"I still think she will be in the final two or three [...] but as with other
candidates, it depends on which one is better able to round up African
votes," Hufbauer said in an emailed reply to The Jakarta Post's inquiry.
The WTO chooses its head based on a consensus system by its 159 members,
according to which the candidate gaining a majority of votes will win. In a
process facilitated by the body's general council, two final nominees will
be chosen in the upcoming weeks, with the appointment of the new post holder
slated to take place by the end of May.
Mari will likely face stiff competition from Azevedo, at present Brazil's
ambassador to the WTO, who has so far been considered a favorite within
diplomatic circles. "The WTO, for its success, requires a hard-headed
analytical approach to develop its mission and strategy. Pangestu combines
both the research and policy experience that can deliver that outcome.
"The director general must have these strengths; a high level of skill in
diplomacy is necessary, but [on its own] is not sufficient," said Chris
Finlay, an economist from Australia's University of Adelaide, remarking on
Mari's chances compared to other candidates.
Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan, who replaced Mari in late 2011, also said that
Mari would have a great opportunity of succeeding to the second round of
selection due to her acclaimed international reputation.
"She has excellent competency in trade because of her long stint as a trade
minister, and she is very familiar with initiatives from international
communities, including the WTO," Gita told reporters on Friday in Jakarta.
Once elected, the greatest task for the next WTO leader is to revive its
role as a negotiation forum on trade and investment issues after a
long-stalled Doha Round of trade talks aimed at easing international world
Mari Elka Pangestu (tourism and creative economy minister)
Birthplace/date: Jakarta/Oct. 23, 1956
Education: Doctorate in International Trade, Finance and Monetary Economics
from the University of California at Davis
Previous jobs: Trade Minister (2004-2011)
Controversy: Despite being highly regarded by the international community
for managing crucial initiatives at the WTO, Mari will face a tough fight in
Indonesia as her policies often sacrifice the local private sector at the
expense of foreign interests.
Affiliations: Non-political appointee
* Mari has been with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies
(CSIS) since 1986. She received her Bachelor and Master of Economics at the
Australian National University and her Ph.D in economics from University of
* Mari Pangestu has been active in the Trade Forum (TF) as the program
coordinator of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC). She is the
co-coordinator of the Task Force on Poverty and Development for the United
Nations Millennium Project.
* She also serves on the board of external editors of the Asian Journal of
Business (University of Michigan) and Bulletin of Indonesian Economic
Studies (Australian National University).
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