Minister says RI’s Doha stance will stay firm

Original Publication Date: 
20 February, 2007

Indonesia will remain firm in its stance favoring "special product exemptions" during the Doha Development Round negotiations, says a minister, brushing aside concerns that the country might compromise on its position in the light of the visit of WTO Director General Pascal Lamy.

Hundreds of protesters marched Tuesday in Jakarta, while civil rights NGOs held a seminar dominated by allegations that Lamy's visit was intended to change Indonesia's stance on the issue.

Responding to questions on the allegations, Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said Tuesday that the Group of 33, or G-33, which Indonesia chairs, would remain firm in promoting what is known as the "Special Products and Special Safeguard Mechanism" (SP-SSM).

"The G-33 will remain firm in its position. Moreover, we will invite him (Lamy) to a G-33 forum," she said.

According to Mari, Lamy's visit to Jakarta is to provide further information on the next stage of the Doha round, which was resurrected during the WTO general council meeting on Feb. 7.

"He will hold a bilateral meeting with several government officials to exchange views on the Doha Round," Mari said.

The SP-SSM initially originated from two proposals.

The "Special Products" element derived from the Food Security Mechanism (FSM), which was first proposed by Indonesia and the Philippines in 2002. The FSM requires flexibility as regards market access commitments and implementation so that they can be adjusted in the light of a country's food security requirements.

The second proposal, the "Special Safeguard Mechanism", was first proposed by Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Granada, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Langka and Venezuela. It involves the right of developing states to impose temporary trade restrictions on designated imported goods if the level of imports is considered damaging to local industries.

The firm stance taken by the developing countries of the G-33 on the SP-SSM proposal was partly to blame for the failure of the Doha round negotiations last year.

The Doha round itself began in November 2001. It was supposed to have been kicked off at the 3rd ministerial conference in Seattle in 1999, and was to have been called "The Seattle Round", but violent demonstrations disrupted the planned meetings.

The round was then delayed and moved to the much more secure city of Doha in Qatar.

Radical activists and civil rights NGOs claim that the trade talks will only benefit multinational firms and the developed countries.

"Don't forget, the Doha round is supposed to be a development round. So, it should emphasize development issues, and not sacrificing the interests of the developing countries," said Bonnie Setiawan, the director of the Institute for Global Justice (IGJ).

"We hope that the Indonesian government will continue to put the nation's interests first, and not sacrifice the SP-SSM," Bonnie said.

A failure to insist on the SP-SSM, according to the IGJ, would threaten the livelihoods of some 21 million farming families in Indonesia.