Tue, 01 Aug 2000

Indonesia supports EC proposal to hold new WTO round this year

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia has thrown its support behind the European Commission's proposal to relaunch a new round of talks for global trade liberalization in the World Trade Organization framework this year, Minister of Industry and Trade Luhut Pandjaitan said on Monday.

However, the new round of trade talks must have a specific agenda that will benefit the country, he said at a seminar on the industry sector held by the Forum of Trade and Industry Journalists.

"Yes, we support the EC's proposal to relaunch talks this year, but under the condition that it will have a clear-cut agenda," he said.

Luhut said Indonesia's stance was revealed during a meeting between President Abdurrahman Wahid and European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy last week.

Lamy visited Indonesia as part of a series of official trips to key developing countries to lobby for a new attempt to launch a round of trade talks after the failure of the Seattle WTO conference last December.

Separately, Director General of International Industry and Trade Organization Cooperation Hatanto Reksodiputro said Indonesia demanded the new trade talks to benefit not only the industrialized countries but also developing countries, which make up two-thirds of the 135 member countries in the WTO.

"It must ensure the balance in serving the interests of both industrialized and developing countries," he said.

Hatanto said Indonesia wanted the agenda for new WTO talks to include specific topics like antidumping and investment.

The issue of antidumping is very critical as it has apparently been widely manipulated by industrialized countries, he said.

Hatanto said Indonesia had also made it clear that it did not want the labor standardization issue to be raised at the new round of trade talks.

"It's impossible. Industrialized countries can't just ask developing countries to use their standards in labor affairs, we're different," he said.

Heads of the Group of Eight leading nations at the last summit on July 23 said they wanted to relaunch a new round of talks within five months, but did not go into specifics on how this might be done, let alone drop hints on whether they were ready to soften rigid negotiating positions.

The WTO's earlier conference in Seattle broke down amid disagreement and recrimination between industrialized and developing countries over issues of agriculture and labor standards, the environment and investment.

Asian countries at the Seattle conference had pressed for, among other things, a WTO review of antidumping measures used mostly by developed nations to keep out competing low-cost imports.

Developing countries had also called for more time to meet the commitments they had made, such as protection for intellectual property rights and for industrialized nations to speed up their commitments on areas such as textiles, which would boost their exports.

At a WTO meeting in Geneva last month, key developing countries, including Indonesia, made it clear they would not agree to a full new global round of trade talks until their concerns about earlier agreements were resolved. (cst)