Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy of Indonesia, Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu, visited London, United Kingdom on 19 March 2013 and met Minister of State for Trade and Investment of UK, H.E. Lord Green, and Minister of State for International Development, H.E. Alan Duncan, MP.
They discussed bilateral developments between Indonesia and United Kingdom, regional developments as well as the current and future state of multilateral trading system of the World Trade Organization (WTO), whose term of office of its Director General would expire on 31 August 2013.
Today’s meetings were held in a positive environment and there was agreement on the importance of keeping the trading system open and to ensure the confidence in the multilateral trading system. Minister Pangestu shared the view with Lord Green and Minister Duncan MP that WTO has played significant role in keeping protectionism at bay and in providing fair trade for all countries, whether they are large or small countries or developed or developing countries.
All ministers also agreed on the importance of continuing to strengthen the rules-based framework and monitoring role of the WTO and the importance of effective aid for trade and capacity building to support the integration of developing countries with the world economy. The role of the WTO is to advocate for coordination and coherence on this front between development agencies, multilateral and bilateral donors, regional banks and also the private sector. Minister Duncan shared what DFID (Department for International Development) has been doing in this regard, including the role of the private sector and possibilities of public private partnership.
The ministers also agreed that the biggest challenge for the WTO is to ensure that it continues to be relevant in multilateral negotiations. In this regard, success in delivering progress through the Early Harvest Package in the upcoming 9th WTO Ministerial Conference is highly crucial. A successful outcome which is envisaged to include trade facilitation, elements of development in agriculture and least developed countries package, will be important in getting momentum and confidence in completing the rest of the negotiations.
Regarding the proliferation of bilateral trade agreements and regional trade agreements, Minister Pangestu seconded Lord Green and Minister Duncan’s view that the reality is that these agreements will continue but they should be complementary and consistent with the multilateral trading system. Minister Pangestu also added that these bilateral trade agreements and regional trade agreements should not be sub-standard ones, but be in line or be WTO plus in terms of the standards and rules, and be intended to be comprehensive, and have principles and mechanisms that ensures they remain open and inclusive.
In regard to bilateral relationship, Minister Pangestu also hoped for support from DFID on the development of creative industries, in line with the Memorandum of Understanding between Indonesia and the UK which was signed by Minister Pangestu and Minister Ed Vazey at the end of last year.
During the visit, Minister Pangestu also delivered a public lecture at the London School of Economics on Indonesian views on the WTO, visited the Parliament to meet the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Trade and Investment and the APPG for Indonesia, and met with the City UK as representatives of the private sector in the financial services area.
Minister Pangestu, who was Minister of Trade of Indonesia from October 2004 to October 2011, is convinced that a multilateral trading system is a solution to many problems worldwide. She said, “Since its creation, the WTO has helped generate more trade, more growth, more jobs and more opportunities in the world. Above all, it has lifted people and nations out of poverty in developing countries and created jobs for all member countries.”
Minister Pangestu is one among four ministers who are candidates for the Director General of the WTO. Other than the four ministers, there are five other candidates who are in the race. If elected as the new Director General, Dr. Pangestu would be the first woman to hold the position since the creation of the WTO.
Based on her experience, she understands the importance of inclusion and would ensure that the opportunities from global free trade benefit everyone, men and women, in developed and developing countries, for big business and SMEs.
In the last few weeks, the Minister already presented her vision and mission to the WTO General Council Meeting in Geneva, as well as meeting WTO members’ representatives. She has also visited Washington DC, Beijing, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest, Moscow, Dubai/UAE, Abidjan, Abuja, Cairo, Stockholm, Rabat, and Copenhagen in order to share her commitment to integrate every country into the global trading system.