Remarks by Ambassador Blake at Diponegoro University, Semarang

“The Future of the U.S. – Indonesia Relationship”

Rector of UNDIP, Professor Dr. Sudharto, Professor Hadi; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to Diponegoro State University.  Thank you, Professor Hadi, for that introduction.   I’m so very honored to visit UNDIP today to talk to Indonesia’s future leaders!

This is a very opportune time to discuss our relations since we have had intensive high-level engagement between the U.S. and Indonesia since President Jokowi’s inauguration:

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry led a high-level U.S. delegation to President Jokowi’s inauguration
  • And our two presidents met in Beijing late last year, where President Obama praised Indonesia’s leadership and pledged to support President Jokowi’s ambitious reform agenda.  Lastly, he invited President Jokowi to Washington, DC this summer.
  • The U.S. private sector has also been very active.  In late 2014 we hosted three major U.S. business delegations.  In November, a delegation from the 20-20 Investment Association visited Indonesia – this is an organization that represents more than $7 trillion in investment capital.  AmCham Indonesia, the US Chamber of Commerce, and their Indonesian partners also held a very successful U.S.-Indonesia Investment Summit that brought together leading U.S. companies and the new government.    And in December, the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council led a 70-member business mission representing 40 premier U.S. companies.

And we are now headed into an intensive period of engagement as our two counties prepare for President Jokowi’s visit to Washington this summer.

The topic of my talk today is “The Future of our Bilateral Relationship” and specifically how the United States intends to work with President Jokowi’s Administration to further develop our bilateral partnership.  I am certainly not able to speak on behalf of the Indonesian government.  But I’m happy to speak about what we have accomplished together over the past several years, and highlight areas where we hope to collaborate.

My talk today will be in the form of a Top 10 list:  the Top 10 Reasons Why the Future of our Bilateral Relationship is Strong.  Here they are:

Reason #1:  Shared Democratic Values

The United States and Indonesia are the world’s second and third largest democracies.  We are very large countries who believe in the same form of government and value diversity and pluralism.

The strength of our political systems is proof that democratic norms and values are universal and not dependent on culture, history, or religion.  Because we have these common values, we can face the future confident that our two countries will continue to broaden and improve our relations, not just with each other but around the world.

These shared values are more important than ever as the United States and Indonesia each play important roles in confronting ISIL.  Considering Indonesia’s long history of tolerance and deep cultural commitment to peace and harmony, it is no surprise that government and civil society leaders of the world’s largest Muslim majority democracy have rejected ISIL’s violent ideology.  And your country’s record in developing a robust democracy, a market economy that provides job and hope for its young people, a responsive government, and leaders who reject corruption and promote good governance, is a model many countries of the Middle East and Africa should learn from as they pursue democratic reforms and seek to foster stronger, more tolerant societies.

Indonesia’s vigorous civil society has demonstrated considerable regional and international leadership in condemning the barbaric acts ISIL commits in the name of Islam, and bringing together scholars and muftis from all over the Islamic world to build a united front in countering this threat.

Reason #2: Governance and Civil Society

As Indonesia exercises an increasingly influential role in the world today, one of its strengths is its active civil society with whom my government and our own civil society cooperate to promote interfaith dialogue, women’s economic and political empowerment, and exchanges on media, rule of law, as well as parliamentary and electoral processes.

For instance, late last year we hosted a program with Indonesian American Imam Shamsi Ali and his friend Rabbi Marc Schneier.  They are both respected religious leaders in America—one who is Muslim, one who is Jewish.  They talked about their friendship and their work promoting interfaith dialogue in New York and around the world.  Before the event, they met with Vice President Jusuf Kalla who was intrigued by their efforts to build bridges of understanding.

To share such experiences more widely, our two countries negotiated last year an MOU on South-South and Triangular cooperation that will enhance our ability to work together in third countries to help them to build their capabilities to improve their governance and promote democracy.

Reason #3:  Political and Security Cooperation

As our two countries strengthen our democracies, promote good governance, promote and defend human rights, and support stability and prosperity throughout the region, the United States and Indonesia increasingly cooperate on security and defense goals.

We work with the Indonesian military to improve maritime security, strengthen international peacekeeping operations, help respond to disasters, and address transnational security challenges that impact the entire region, including

smuggling and drug trafficking.  As a result, our defense and security cooperation have never been better. We stand ready to bolster maritime security cooperation to complement President Jokowi’s vision and help promote regional stability.

We are proud to be Indonesia’s top partner in a number of bilateral military exercises and other engagements each year.  We are also pleased to play a role in supporting Indonesia’s military modernization, including through provision of world-class American military systems and technology.  In fact, Indonesia is one of less than 15 countries to which the United States has agreed to sell AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopters.

We are also partnering with Indonesia on addressing global security challenges such as terrorism, cybersecurity, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  Through partnerships with law enforcement agencies throughout the region, we’re working hard to protect our people and our world from those that would do us harm.

Reason #4:  Maritime Cooperation

One new area of opportunity will be U.S. support for President Jokowi’s goal to develop a maritime “nexus” to raise incomes and increase integration across the Indonesian archipelago by combating illegal fishing and improving Indonesia’s maritime infrastructure and transportation capacity while strengthening Indonesia’s ability to secure its maritime borders and protect its natural resources.

We have a strong partnership with the Indonesian Government on marine issues to build on.  The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is designing a new five-year program  that will support the conservation of marine biodiversity, sustainable fisheries management, and the improved governance of marine resources at local, district, provincial, and national levels in Indonesia.

The U.S. Department of Justice has a long track record of working to build Indonesia’s maritime security capacity in areas such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and is gearing up its work to help Indonesia identify and prosecute those engaged in IUU fishing as part of broader efforts to combat transnational organized crime.

American companies like Anova and Mars are leading the charge to develop alternative, more sustainable, livelihoods in fishing communities across Indonesia.  Likewise American universities, like the University of Rhode Island and research institutions like San Diego’s Scripps Oceanographic Institute, are partnering with Indonesian universities and government agencies to conduct important research into Indonesia’s marine biodiversity and fish stocks.

Cooperation on maritime defense and security is a top priority for our defense relationship.  As we increasingly emphasize maritime issues in our cooperation with the Indonesian Navy and Air Force, we are also actively exploring ways to partner with Indonesia’s newly-established Coast Guard, “Bakamla”.

Reason #5:  Trade Cooperation

Our commercial relationship brings us closer together as governments, as nations, and as people.  Through our Comprehensive Partnership, we cooperate bilaterally, regionally, and globally to promote economic growth, sustainable development, and poverty alleviation.  And there is no more important way that we can create prosperity and opportunity for our two peoples than through expanding trade and investment.

As AmCham Indonesia’s 2013 study, “Partners in Prosperity: U.S. Investment in Indonesia” detailed, American companies in the past eight years have invested roughly $65 billion into the Indonesian economy, primarily in the oil and gas, mining, and manufacturing sectors.  And American companies stand ready to invest a further $61 billion over the next five years if the business and regulatory environment is right.

Today, there are almost 200,000 Indonesians working directly for American companies in Indonesia and another 1.7 million jobs have indirectly been created by American investment.  Moreover, Indonesians make up 95% of the workforce in American owned companies, with many Indonesians in the senior management levels.

On trade, we’ve still got a long way to go – total trade between Indonesia and the United States was static in 2014 at about $28 billion.   Now that is a large number, but for the United States and Indonesia, two G-20 members and the 3rd and 4th largest populations in the world, we can do much better.  I would note that we import more than twice the amount from Indonesia than we export here, meaning Indonesia consistently has about a $10 billion trade surplus with the United States.

In today’s world of global supply chains, restricting imports will impede industry growth, not promote it, and ultimately will harm Indonesia’s economic growth.  A fair, open, and predictable, Indonesian trade environment will support continued economic growth and allow Indonesian consumers access to the newest and best products and services from around the world at competitive prices.

And so we’re working closely with our partners in the Indonesian government and private sector to promote closer and stronger trade ties.  The U.S. has supported greater Indonesian participation in global bodies, like the G-20.  And we seek to reduce barriers to trade and investment through mechanisms such as our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.

Finally, we welcome Indonesia’s initiative to establish a U.S.-Indonesia Business Council based in Washington DC, and encourage Indonesian companies to explore investment opportunities in the United States.  Later in March I will travel to Seattle to encourage more U.S. companies to invest in and trade with Indonesia.

And I will lead a small delegation of Indonesian companies to the Select USA Investment Summit to showcase opportunities for and promote foreign investment in the United States.  We want to seize every opportunity to increase trade and investment in both directions.  When we invest in each other’s economies and when our two countries trade with each other, it benefits both our peoples.

Reason #6:  Environmental Cooperation

These efforts dovetail with the success we had had working together on our shared environmental protection and climate change agenda. On climate change, Indonesia and the United States are working closely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with U.S. Government entities contributing about $500 million toward our bilateral Low-Emission Development Strategy.

It is vital that both our countries work together to develop ambitious nationally-determined greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and strategies ahead of the UN Climate Summit in Paris in December.

So how are helping Indonesia reduce carbon emissions?  First, the Millennium Challenge Corporation – a USG funded independent development agency – has committed US$332 million to support the Green Prosperity project to promote renewable energy, sustainable land use and forest management projects.

Second, we are working with Indonesia to ensure Indonesia’s remaining forests are managed sustainably.  As part of this, we have negotiated two debt for nature swaps, in which the U.S. has forgiven over US$50 million of Indonesia’s sovereign debt in exchange for Indonesian commitments to protect forest areas and reduce deforestation.  I’m happy to say we just finished a US$12 million extension of this program that will help to preserve additional biodiversity-rich forested land in Sumatra.

The United States is a large and growing market for Indonesian palm oil. But many U.S. consumers associate palm oil with the massive clearing of tropical forests that has occurred here.  So they want to be sure that the products they buy are produced sustainably.  That’s why we strongly support the effort KADIN has made to broker an agreement with Indonesia’s largest palm oil producers, representing 80% of all production, to stop clearing high-carbon stock primary forest and peat land. We are also collaborating with Indonesian Government and NGO partners to fight wildlife trafficking.

Reason #7:  Energy Cooperation

To sustain our economies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we need to rely more on sustainable, renewable energy.  So we are working together to promote clean energy technology and policy, both to bolster Indonesia’s energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  U.S. companies such as Chevron and Ormat Technologies are supporting the development of Indonesia’s vast geothermal resources, while the U.S. government, through our Department of Energy, USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, are supporting the delivery of clean power to Indonesia’s remote areas.  We’re also working to help Indonesia attract more investment into the oil and gas sector.

Our collaborations will help our two countries develop and sustain cleaner energy options well into the future that will help our people and the health of our planet.

Reason #8:  Education Cooperation

The future of our bilateral relationship depends on many factors—but perhaps none is more important than our cooperation between our teachers and students.  Education is a key variable that will shape our relationship, train our young people, and determine the future competitiveness of our economies.  Our Education Working Group is expanding the opportunities for Indonesians to study and do research in the United States.  We are taking steps to improve our cooperation.

There are many Americans who study, teach, and conduct research in Indonesia.  We’ve increased student exchanges, witnessing a steady increase in the number of Indonesians studying in the United States and the numbers of Americans studying in Indonesia.  But we hope to see much greater growth in the future because people-to-people contacts are thriving.

Our Fulbright Program, for example, is among the largest in the world.  The return of the Peace Corps Volunteers who teach English to Indonesia in 2010 is a sign of our commitment to Indonesia’s education system and people-to-people ties.  There are 89 Peace Corps Volunteers throughout Indonesia, teaching English in high schools and junior high schools.

We also have 16 English Language Fellows who train teachers and improve curriculum at universities, and 40 Fulbright English Teaching Assistants who help teach English in some of Indonesia’s more remote areas.  We’re always looking for ways to promote technical and vocational education that will help Indonesians build the skills they need to compete in the modern economy.

Last year, almost 8,000 Indonesians studied in the U.S.  That is welcome but small for a country of Indonesia’s size.  There are many opportunities to study in the U.S., and I invite you to consider pursuing an advanced degree in the U.S. because we offer the best quality, value, and diversity in the world.

But don’t just listen to us.  Ask your fellow foreign students where they want to study.  According to a survey of U.S. colleges conducted by the nonprofit Institute of International Education, the U.S. once again is far and away the top destination for foreign university students.   The number of international students in U.S. colleges and universities increased about 8% last year to nearly 886,000.

Why are U.S. universities in such demand?  First because they are considered to have the best facilities and faculties in the world.  The United States accounts for one-third of all research and development funding globally.

This leads to the second reason:  investment in research at universities fosters creativity and innovation.  The U.S. is credited with producing the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial graduates.  That’s why most of the Nobel prizes in science, economics and medicine have been awarded to people who studied or who are conducting research in the U.S., many of them foreign.

Third, college campuses in the United States go out of their way to attract students and staff representing cultures, ethnicities, and religions from around the world because these different people can teach us new ways of thinking and working with each other.  But they are also why America is one of the most friendly and welcoming societies in the world.

For more information about universities or scholarships, I invite you to speak with our Education Advisor who is here today to provide this information.

Reason #9:  Health, Science, and Technology Cooperation

Some of our educational partnerships have catalyzed the important work the U.S. and Indonesia are doing together on important health issues – whether bringing clean water and sanitation to poor areas, working through our Centers for Disease Control with Indonesian counterparts at the Ministry of Health to combat malaria, tuberculosis, and infectious diseases, or spending over US$170 million on U.S. programs to improve mother/infant mortality rates in Indonesia and combat stunting.  

That record is good but we are not satisfied.  If Indonesian companies are going to be competitive in the global economy of the 21st century, they must innovate.  And the heart of innovation is developing higher education, particularly in the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering and math.  Through USAID, we’re working with the Indonesian government to increase the number of educational and research exchange programs, especially in the science and technology field, with the goal of supporting innovation in Indonesia.  We’re also working with Indonesian groups to find ways to use that research well in support of good government policy.

Reason #10:  Social Media

The people Indonesia and the U.S. both love social media.  A lot!  We love social media’s potential to bring innovation and collaboration in our countries.  I know as students you are on Path when you’re at the café, on Facebook when you’re at school, on Instagram when you’re hanging out with your friends snapping selfies, and on Twitter when you’re stuck in macet.  So you must be on Twitter a lot!  I know I am, Check out #DubesBlake.

Social media is about collaborative power and that’s what so democratic and liberating about it.  Facebook and Twitter help us connect to each other—to our friends, to our families, to our colleagues.  Social media also connects our two countries in ways we could not have imagined 5-10 years ago.

Social media makes our big world smaller by empowering people to express and implement their innovative ideas.  Take, for example, Cek Sekolah (School Check).  This pilot project is taking place in 15 schools in Semarang, Pelangkaraya, and Makassar.  It’s a website, SMS, and email platform where students, teachers, and parents submit suggestions to improve their school’s performance.  Schools are required to respond to suggestions in 10 days.  And it’s working.  Cek Sekolah has improved transparency and increased accountability, and schools are now more open and transparent about their budget and management.  Cek Sekolah also empowered students, teachers, and parents in these cities to be more active participants in their schools, and the technology continues to serve as a communication bridge between them.

In closing, I know that the future of our bilateral relationship will only get better because of our shared values and increasingly convergent interests, and the strength of our leaders and our citizens, particularly our youth.  And no one is more important than those of you in this room.

We believe in you.  We believe in your ability.  We believe in the promise of what you can do in our open, thriving, democratic countries.  We look to you to serve as bridges of understanding and collaboration between our two countries.  Through our Comprehensive Partnership, we are now laying the groundwork for the future.  It’s not easy.  It’s hard work.  But I know our work will bring our two countries closer together and help our countries become more prosperous, more sustainable, and more democratic.  Thank you very much.
As prepared.