The Leaderboard: Mari Pangestu

Who is she?

Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu is Indonesia’s tourism and creative economy minister, and previously served for seven years as trade minister, a post from which she took a strong stance in support of free trade. In her current position, she has pushed for resolving key problems that limit Indonesia’s tourism, including infrastructure, security, and health concerns.

Pangestu moved into her current role following a cabinet reshuffle in October 2011. She was the first woman of Chinese ethnicity to hold a cabinet position in Indonesia. Earlier, she worked at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta and taught economics at the University of Indonesia. She received a masters degree from Australian National University and a PhD in economics from the University of California, Davis.

Dr. Mari Pengestu of Indonesia. Source: Wikimedia Commons author Bungandy, used under a creative commons license.

Why is she in the news?

Indonesia December 20 nominated Pangestu to replace Pascal Lamy as director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) when he steps down in August 2013. Ghana and Costa Rica are also fielding candidates, Alan Kyerematen and Anabel Gonzalez, respectively.

Countries have until December 31 to nominate candidates, and the new head will be announced May 31, 2013. Indonesia will host the biannual WTO conference next December in Bali.

What can we expect from her?

Pangestu was a pragmatic minister of trade, but often lacked the political backing needed to build support for her policies to promote liberalizing trade. As minister of trade, she was lauded for boosting Indonesia’s exports, but criticized by colleagues for pursuing more regional free trade which critics say resulted in a flood of goods from China, hurting the domestic economy and prompting the 2011 reshuffle.

If selected, we can expect Pangestu to use this same pragmatism to try to jump start the stalled WTO Doha negotiations. Last year, she criticized developed countries, saying the Doha negotiations would fail if they were not willing to make more concessions.

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