Indonesian technocrat Pangestu enters race to lead WTO

Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:18pm EST
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By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) - Indonesia has entered the race for leadership of the World Trade Organization, nominating former trade minister Mari Pangestu to succeed Pascal Lamy when he steps down in August 2013, bringing the second woman and the third continent into the contest.

Pangestu, who studied in Australia and holds a doctorate in international trade from the University of California, is the third candidate to be nominated in as many days, following Ghana's Alan Kyerematen and Costa Rica's Anabel Gonzalez.

All five directors general in the WTO's 17-year history have been male, and all but one have come from developed countries.

The nomination of Pangestu, a technocrat and reformer in Indonesia's cabinet, will be a surprise for many trade diplomats, since she is not one of the half-dozen names of likely runners that have been batted around Geneva in recent months.

An ethnic Chinese, she served as trade minister for seven years until a cabinet reshuffle in October 2011.

As trade minister, she favored the Doha Round of trade global talks rather than regional deals such as the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, something that should strengthen her credentials as a champion of the WTO.

Early last year, she also warned that the decade-old Doha Round would fail if rich nations such as the United States did not offer more agricultural concessions.

Although she was respected in the WTO and in international forums such as the G20, she often clashed with cabinet colleagues who wanted to protect domestic interests.   Continued...