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A new boss for the World Trade Organisation
Former Indonesian trade minister now tourism minister, Mari Pangestu, is one of those hoping to be the new director-general of the WTO.

The World Trade Organisation will get a new director-general later this year with current boss Pascal Lamy leaving.

Among those jockeying for the top job is former Indonesian trade minister now tourism minister, Mari Pangestu.

She's just returned from a world tour trying to convince some of the 158 member trade organisation to vote for her.
JIM MIDDLETON: You're just back in Indonesia from Europe where you've been talking to some of the people who would determine who is the next director-general; what do they think of your candidacy?

MARI PANGESTU: Well, that's for them to tell you. But I can tell you why I and Indonesia have nominated myself as the candidate for the director-general of the WTO. It's really because we feel that trade has been such an engine of growth, development and creation of jobs and reduction of poverty that we would like to contribute to the system by ensuring confidence in the multilateral trading system.

And a country like Indonesia, you know, a large developing country, we have seen how trade has transformed our country. And I have been part of that, I have seen it, I have been part of the solution, I've been part of the hopefully the results that we're having.

JIM MIDDLETON: And why do you think it is then that if Indonesia, and you specifically, can see such benefits in multilateralism, why is it that the Doha round has been stalled for so long? Why don't other countries see it in the same light?

MARI PANGESTU: First of all we have seen the benefits. And I don't think it's just us, a lot of countries in Asia and Asia Pacific have seen the benefits of a certainty as well as predictability of a multilateral trading system and a single framework and single set of rules. And, you know, I don't think we should say that Doha is stalled or that there's pessimism about Doha.

Doha is a process and it is a very big package of multilateral negotiations and, you know, we have made a lot of progress in achieving a lot of agreement in very sensitive areas like agriculture. And I believe that I'm still optimistic that there can be a way forward to complete the negotiations.

JIM MIDDLETON: And what do you think that you can bring to the job that would give momentum to the Doha round, bring it - help bring it to completion?

MARI PANGESTU: Well, I think I'm very humbled by the challenge of the job of a director general. But at the same time I'm emboldened by the belief that given my experience - I have been Trade Minister for seven years, I've also had 25 years worth of experience in the trade world, starting from an NGO (Non-Government Organisation) all the way into being in government. My experience, my knowledge in trade, my skill set and my leadership skills- I have been involved in all negotiations, bilateral, regional as well as multilateral, all the key negotiations involving Doha.

You know, I'm not saying I think there's a magic formula that I can pull out to get consensus but I believe that I have the skill to be seen as a bridge builder, as an honest broker, to really bring everybody back to the table and start talking to each other and see the way forward. And there is some cautious optimism that the mood at the moment, that there is this movement to want to complete the Doha negotiations beginning with an early harvest at the end of the year.

JIM MIDDLETON: On that question of an early harvest, there is talk of a trade facilitation package as being the test for the WTO this year. How realistic a goal is completion of such a deal seeing there hasn't really been a huge amount of agreement within the WTO context for much of the last decade?

MARI PANGESTU: Well if it was simple, I guess it would have been solved long ago. I'm not underestimating how complex it is, but I believe that there is now a strong commitment by all members because we know that, you know, the benefits are so great. And there is already a lot of intensive discussion beginning to try to finalise the components of a trade facilitation package which must include capacity building for the developing countries and other components of the development package - there are some in agriculture and also for least developed country to make it balanced. Because always the objective is to get the balance package, even in the early harvest and to not forget that we will also complete the rest of the Doha package.

JIM MIDDLETON: You spoke about capacity building for developing nations. At the very minimum what does that need to entail and how much support is there realistically among the old industrialised nations whose economies are under considerable pressure at the moment?

MARI PANGESTU: A lot of it is related to basically building up systems and coming up with a way forward to reduce and simplify cross-border barriers and investment in infrastructure related to transportation. And these are all, I think, part already of many of the capacity building programs of advanced countries, developed countries. And I would think that emerging countries can also play a role and regional development banks and so on.

So in our experience in ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) this is something, trade facilitation was part of the ASEAN community economic agreement, and we've had this experience with countries in ASEAN, Singapore on the one and in Myanmar and Laos and Cambodia on the other where you can build up this capacity.

JIM MIDDLETON: Over the past decade the Indonesian economy and its role within the global economy have been transformed. Do you think that Indonesia stands in a unique position in trying to advance multilateral trade reform because: a) of its experience, domestically, and; b) because of its increasing prominence in trying to manage the global economy?

MARI PANGESTU: Yes, I would say that our experience is one that we would like to be able to share with the rest of the world. You know, how trade has helped development, created jobs and reduced poverty. We'd like to see many, many, many more countries in the world have that same experience.

And coming from that experience hopefully it means that we can understand development challenges that are on the ground. I mean this has been a process that is not without development challenges and how you deal with that.

And of course over the last decade we have also wanted to play a role in improving global governance to make sure that the trading system is open, fair, balanced and equitable. And that's also part of hopefully what we can contribute back to the world, to the system, for better governance.

And we've also had a very, I believe, in the last decade, we've also tried to play a role in the regional agreements that we have forged ahead. That they are open regional agreements and that they are transparent, that they are comprehensive and that they are intended to have more and more members.

JIM MIDDLETON: Minister, good luck and thank you very much.

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