Remarks by Ambassador Blake on “Foreign Policy in the Jokowi Administration” at the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club
My fellow panelists, Members of the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club, distinguished guests
Thank you for the invitation to join this panel and provide the United States’ perspective on foreign policy in the Jokowi administration.
When President Jokowi was elected, some Indonesians expressed concern he was too inward looking and that Indonesia was pulling back from international engagement. But any President in a democracy is focused first on the welfare and well-being of his or her country’s citizens, and President Jokowi rightly focused first and foremost on reducing poverty and raising growth rates. Meanwhile, his approach to foreign policy has evolved over the past eighteen months.
I’m going to briefly talk about where President Jokowi started and what critics observed, then hit on some key initiatives we have seen over the past year and a half, and then I’ll conclude with some comments on the U.S. – Indonesia relationship.
Where Jokowi Began
In his inaugural address, President Jokowi pledged to maintain Indonesia’s “free and active” foreign policy, which traditionally meant a non-aligned and balancing approach to major powers.
Jokowi’s team adapted a set of priorities shaped by his domestic agenda, with an emphasis on securing foreign investment, promoting Indonesia’s role as a maritime nation, and protecting Indonesian workers abroad. As I said, some criticized the President for being too inward looking.
What We’ve Seen
Frankly, a democratically elected president should be focused on issues at home. Jokowi clearly cares about the Indonesian people at home and overseas, and he also cares about Indonesia’s stature abroad.
In the past year especially, Indonesia’s international engagement has grown. For example, President Jokowi has traveled twice to the United States. He met President Obama last October. Our two presidents elevated our bilateral relationship to a Strategic Partnership and signed more than $20 billion in bilateral trade and investment agreements. He also announced Indonesia’s intention to join the Trans Pacific Partnership. The TPP process will contribute greatly to President Jokowi’s goal of diversifying and increasing the competitiveness of the Indonesian economy.
In February, the President traveled to Sunnylands, CA to attend the U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Summit. I’m sure Vincent will speak about the President’s upcoming week-long tour of Europe.
Key issues and Themes
Clearly, Indonesia is engaging with the outside world. Now let’s look at the substance of engagement.
Economic development has been a major goal for Jokowi, and he has made attracting foreign investment and promoting Indonesian products central to his international engagement. That is also a central focus of American foreign policy and many other countries.
On the traditional diplomatic front, the United States has welcomed several important initiatives by Indonesia:
- Indonesia showed great leadership last May to help resolve the crisis of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants. Foreign Minister Marsudi agreed with her Malaysian counterpart to receive and shelter 7,000 migrants, with 1,800 actually arriving on Indonesian shores.
- Later in the year, Indonesia hosted an important conference to urge other Asian countries to increase support for and participation in UN peacekeeping efforts, while announcing its own intention to become the world’s tenth largest provider of peacekeeping troops.
- As the world’s largest Muslim-majority democracy, Indonesia has continued to host the Bali Democracy Forum, participate actively in the Open Government Partnership, and join international condemnation of the Islamic State, while supporting international efforts to counter violent extremism, stop financial flows to terrorist organizations and counter the messaging of groups like ISIS.
- We were very pleased that VP Kalla was a featured speaker at the CVE Summit President Obama convened last fall in NYC.
- Since Indonesia is one of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters, President Jokowi has shown commendable leadership to reduce carbon and other emissions.
- He announced at the Paris Climate Summit in December Indonesia’s intention to reduce GHG emissions by 29% by 2030 and Minister of Environment and Forest Nurbaya will sign the agreement on April 22;
- he has committed his Government to ensuring that 23% of all energy consumed in 2025 will be derived from renewables;
- he established a moratorium on peatland development and created the Peatland Restoration Agency to restore 2 million hectares of peatland and tackle the annual fires on peatland that release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere each year.
- The U.S. has substantial programs here to support these efforts that I would be glad to summarize in the question and answer period.
- As a country that has made great progress to reduce malaria and improve health in Indonesia, it is now taking a global leadership role in the Global Health Security Agenda to fight infectious and other diseases.
Indonesia remains committed to and a strong leader of ASEAN, and Indonesia sees ASEAN as the most important actor in regional security architecture.
On the South China Sea, Indonesia like the United States supports international law, the principle of freedom of navigation, peaceful resolution of territorial disputes, and opposes militarization on island features in the region. We hope Indonesia and other ASEAN nations will forge a consensus to uphold international law in the South China Sea.
The United States considers Indonesia a partner of growing strategic importance in the Asia Pacific. As Assistant Secretary Danny Russel observed last week, Indonesia is raising its game to contribute and to compete, both regionally and globally. That is a good thing for Indonesia, for the United States, and for the world.
Thank you. I look forward to your questions later.