Wed, 18 Nov 2009
Lawmakers have demanded that Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu make available the feasibility studies on the proposed free trade agreements (FTAs) following business community concerns that losses may outweigh gains.

In a hearing between Mari and the House of Representatives’ Commission VI for trade, business and state companies late on Monday, lawmakers were questioning Mari’s judgement in promoting these FTAs at bilateral or regional levels.

“There’s a transparency issue here. The public and stakeholders are being kept in the dark over the feasibility studies for these planned FTAs,” said lawmaker Mukhamad Misbakhun of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

“Until now most of the businessmen are not aware of the gains and losses they will face from such deals. Is it too hard to upload such studies on the Internet so that the public can cope [better] with any risks stemming from the planned FTAs?”

Under a bilateral scheme, Indo-nesia is planning to build an FTA with Pakistan. Under the recent ASEAN FTA with Australia and New Zealand, and between ASEAN and India, Indonesia is still negotiating auxiliary deals with these countries.

There is concern the auxiliary negotiations are lacking in transparency as regards their feasibility.

“Is there any specific study showing how many jobs will be lost or created for any specific industry? If you (the minister) cannot explain this to the public don’t blame them if there’s a suspicion you are not taking the side of local businessmen,” said Hendrawan Supratikno of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Trade Ministry officials have argued that feasibility studies were kept classified so Indonesia’s negotiation teams could keep their cards to their chest during negotiations.

Other issues raised during the meeting were related to a lack of coordination and cooperation between the Trade Ministry and the Industry Ministry, with the latter demanding a full review of any planned FTAs to better assess the risks involved.

“I wonder how the coordination [is working] with the Industry Ministry, which seems to be against these planned FTAs?” said Ibnu Munzir of the Golkar Party.

He also said Indonesia’s human resources, bureaucracy and policies are not ready to deal with developed economies under FTA rules.

Minister Mari is to provide written replies on all these concerns raised by the lawmakers by Dec. 2.
However, during her presentation, Mari said the government had held a discussion with businessmen, associations and academics, and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) at every stage of FTA negotiations.

The government, she said, had also discussed the feasibility studies of the planned FTAs with the
stakeholders to inform them of the costs and benefits of the planned deals.



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