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Indonesian president reshuffles cabinet, names new trade minister

Rejig follows series of policy flip-flops on palm oil exports.

Zulkifli Hasan is taking the reins at Indonesia's trade ministry. This picture shows him during an interview around a decade ago when he was the nation's forestry minister.   © Reuters

JAKARTA (Reuters) -- Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, appointing a new trade minister following controversy over a series of policy flip-flops on palm oil exports.

In an official ceremony at the state palace the president inaugurated Zukifli Hasan, chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN) and a former forestry minister as the country's next trade minister, among other changes.

The reshuffle comes after former trade minister Muhammad Lutfi faced political pressure over policy efforts to contain a surge in domestic cooking oil prices, which included a shock ban on palm oil shipments from the world's biggest exporter.

Minister Lutfi had blamed a "palm oil mafia" for undermining efforts to contain cooking oil prices after bringing in a surprise ban on palm oil exports in April.

The three-week export ban, lifted on May 23, sent shockwaves through global markets and led to a series of arrests for alleged corruption after the attorney general launched an investigation.

Political observers say the president may also have been looking to appoint a member of PAN to his cabinet after the party, which is connected to well-known opposition figure Amien Rais, joined the ruling coalition last year.

President Jokowi, as he is popularly known, is currently serving out his second term. He also announced changes to the agrarian and spatial planning ministry, appointing former armed forced chief, Hadi Tjahjanto.

He also inaugurated three deputy ministers to the ministries of manpower, spatial planning and home affairs.

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