As the global economic gravity shifts from the Atlantic to the Pacific, global trade patterns are changing in tandem. Asia now accounts for a greater percentage of world trade and as such it is only natural that the next head of the World Trade Organization is from Asia.
Indonesia, a country very much on the rise, has put forward Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu as a potential candidate for the position of WTO secretary-general. We fully support her candidacy, not just because she is Indonesian but because she is the best person for the job.
A champion of free trade, Mari has deep knowledge and insights into how trade patterns are changing. More importantly, she will voice the concerns of emerging economies while keeping the concerns of developed countries in mind.
“I agree with the importance of trade to help fix the global economy and boost equal growth that provides benefits for all countries,” Mari said prior to her presentation. “I also firmly believe in the importance of maintaining trust in the global trade system [and keeping it] open, just and balanced.”
Her previous seven-year tenure as Indonesia’s trade minister has allowed her to build a strong network. She is an honest broker and a respected thinker who appreciates the need to stand firm when necessary but also knows when to compromise.
Indonesia will host the WTO meeting this year and is hopeful of a breakthrough that can get the Doha round of trade negotiations back on track. Mari has the clout and the intellectual firepower to get all the parties back to the negotiating table.
But we should not be blind to the challenges that lie ahead. Many countries, frustrated with the deadlock on multilateral trade negotiations, are taking matters into their own hands by forging bilateral free trade agreements. Mari, if elected, will have her work cut out to maintain the central importance of the multilateral trade regime.