Indonesia names former investment chief as trade minister

JAKARTA Tue Feb 11, 2014 11:30pm EST

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JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia named the U.S.-educated former head of its investment agency, Muhammad Lutfi, as trade minister on Wednesday, with the government entering its last few months before a presidential election set for July.

Lutfi replaces Gita Wirjawan who stepped down last month to focus on his campaign to become the presidential candidate for the ruling Democratic Party.

"My priorities will be one, to stabilize prices and reduce inflation ... and two, to boost exports," he told reporters. "Stabilizing prices is very important and we will tackle that by ensuring the transportation and distribution system works smoothly without disruptions due to weather conditions."

There are concerns that high inflation could be returning because of the impact of heavy rains this year.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the 44-year-old former ambassador to Japan would be formally installed as minister on February 14.

Lutfi takes on the job as worries remain over the country's trade position. Though the current account deficit appears to be narrowing, a number of economists said there is a risk it could start to widen again following January's ban on unprocessed mineral exports.

The central bank is due to announce the balance of payments data for the fourth quarter of 2013 on Friday.

(Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor, Writing by Jonathan Thatcher; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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