In her bid to become director general of the World Trade Organization, Mari Elka Pangestu, Indonesia’s minister of tourism and the creative economy, has embarked on a world tour to persuade the trade bloc’s 158 members to vote for her.
After being cleared last week to qualify as one of nine candidates for the organization’s top job, Mari met separately in Brussels on Monday with Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, and Karel De Gucht, the European Union trade commissioner.
According to a press release from the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, Mari and the European officials discussed bilateral developments and the role of trade in growth and job creation, as well as the future of the WTO’s multilateral trading system.
The ministry said the talks took place in a “positive atmosphere,” and the officials stressed the importance of committing to a global rules-based trading system, which is the WTO’s ultimate goal.
Mari, who served as Indonesia’s trade minister from 2004 to 2011, said she was convinced that a multilateral trading system was the solution to many of the world’s problems.
“Since its creation, the WTO has helped generate more trade, more growth, more jobs and more opportunities in the world,” she said.
“Above all, it has lifted people and nations out of poverty.”
Mari is one of three women in the field of nine candidates, and has received the support of officials in several countries.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a communique on Saturday in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, with the two leaders agreeing to support each other on the basis of reciprocity in the re-election of Nigerian Kanayo Nwanze as president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the candidature of Mari for the WTO post.
Yudhoyono also agreed to support Nigeria’s candidature for election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the period of 2014 to 2015, while Jonathan agreed to support Indonesia’s candidature for the same election for the period of 2015 to 2016.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has also voiced support for Mari to assume the leadership of the WTO.
After a bilateral meeting with Yudhoyono in Monrovia last Thursday, Sirleaf said her country appreciated Indonesia’s role in global development.
“Liberia supports Mari Pangestu to lead the WTO,” she said.
Sirleaf also praised Indonesia’s contribution of troops for peace-keeping efforts in various parts of Africa.
Indonesia is boosting its diplomatic efforts to help Mari win the WTO job, with presidential spokesman Teuku Faizasyah saying recently that Yudhoyono had ordered an all-out diplomatic effort to garner as much support as possible.
“Every time the president meets with other leaders, he always asks for their support for Mari,” he said.
Mari is one of three candidates from the Asia-Pacific region hoping to replace Pascal Lamy of France, whose term comes to an end on Aug. 31. The others are South Korean Trade Minister Taeho Bark and New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser.
While Indonesia is upbeat about Mari’s chances, with many analysts having praised her capabilities and penchant for networking, others have pointed out that she may have less of a shot given that Lamy’s predecessor, Supachai Panitchpakdi, came from Thailand, another country in Southeast Asia.
One of the Latin American candidates — from Mexico, Brazil and Costa Rica — is more likely to get the job, they say.