TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar18/19)
23 March 2018
Third World Network
Indonesia won't participate in any plurilateral, says Minister Lukita
Published in SUNS #8646 dated 21 March 2018

New Delhi, 20 Mar (D. Ravi Kanth) - Indonesia's trade minister, Mr Enggartiasto Lukita, on Tuesday (20 March) said categorically that his country will not participate in any plurilateral initiatives being launched by a group of countries on electronic commerce, investment facilitation, and disciplines for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

In an interview with SUNS on the margins of the informal trade ministerial summit, the Indonesian minister said plurilateral initiatives are not consistent with the WTO's core mandate for promoting multilateral trade.

Mr Lukita said he has directed his officials in Geneva not to participate in any plurilateral negotiations because they are antithetical to the multilateral trade promotion. "I have been consistent and will continue to instruct our representatives in Geneva not to join plurilateral negotiations," he maintained.

"We are in the WTO for the multilateral trading system based on a principle of inclusivity," he said, arguing that "plurilaterals and plurilateralism clearly run counter to our efforts to uphold multilateralism."

Minister Lukita also delivered a strong message to the United States which is about to implement trade restrictive measures on grounds of national security.

The Indonesian minister said that when "countries point fingers at others for not adhering to global rules and for pursing protectionist measures, they must not do the same when it comes to their (own) interests."

Without naming the countries or the US, the Indonesian minister said that "those countries which ask all other members at the WTO to honour commitments must (themselves) follow the rules."

On his assessment about the New Delhi meeting, the Indonesian minister said, "I would not expect that ministers at the New Delhi gathering can make final decisions on the issues at hand."

"What is really needed at this point is "political guidance" on how we should re-engage with a different approach," he said.

On the moratorium for not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions, the Indonesian minister said he had raised the issue twice during the WTO's eleventh ministerial conference (MC11) in Buenos Aires.

After assessing the issue of online and offline trade in goods, Indonesia feels strongly that countries should "level the playing field between online business and off-line business."

He said there are incongruities between those applying tariffs "on products traded in conventional way across borders but not the ones traded online through electronic transmissions."

If that is the case, said Minister Lukita, "then we unintentionally discriminate against conventional business in favour of internet-based business."

"What Indonesia conveyed at the MC11 is that we agree to extend the moratorium on electronic transmission until the next ministerial conference, but it applies to the electronic transmission, not to the products that are transmitted electronically," he said.

As regards the proposed "differentiation" for denying special and differential flexibilities to China, India, and Brazil among others, the Indonesian minister said Japan had raised the issue during the dinner only for trade ministers saying that there should be new categories for deciding who should get the flexibilities.

He said Indonesia is prepared to discuss the issue in detail.