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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs  15 November 2010

Doha talks come first for Indonesia

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Indonesia's priority is to wrap up the long-running Doha round of global trade talks rather than joining a US-led Asia-Pacific free-trade initiative, said Mari Pangestu, the trade minister of Southeast Asia's largest economy.

Mari also said that differing speeds of currency appreciation in emerging Asian economies was a source of anxiety for Indonesia and raised questions over how to manage large capital inflows into the country.

"For Indonesia, we think the best thing to do is to conclude the Doha round," she said when asked about joining the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would in principle eliminate all tariffs within the zone it covers.

World Trade Organization members are trying to reach a deal to open up global commerce, but the current Doha round of talks has been stalled since July 2008.

Mari was attending the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, where leaders are trying to accelerate trade integration in the region.

APEC leaders are expected to pledge to move forward on the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific in the region, home to 44 percent of the world's trade and 53 percent of global economic output. One of the "building blocks" for the FTAAP is the TPP that would link nine nations.

"At the moment, the deadlock or problems that we are facing in negotiating the WTO are the same as [the ones] you are going to face in FTAAP negotiations or TPP negotiations, and maybe even more [so], because the TPP is what's called a very comprehensive or high-standard trade agreement," Mari said.

"So if you cannot solve it in the WTO, it will be difficult to solve it in FTAAP or TPP. So for a smallish country like Indonesia with limited resources for negotiations, let's prioritize the multilateral negotiations."

The trade minister also said she was worried about differing rates of currency appreciation in Asia's emerging markets and volatility of capital inflows into Indonesia. Capital inflows into emerging market funds hit a massive $46.4 billion in the year to the fourth week of October compared with $9.4 billion for all of 2009, according to global fund tracker EPFR.

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