Remarks by Ambassador Blake at University of Indonesia, Depok

The Future of Our Bilateral Relationship

Thank you Dr. Bambang Wibawarta for inviting me to the University of Indonesia.  Thank you, Professor Sudarman, for that introduction.

I know so many of Indonesia’s leaders have graduated from UI.  So I’m very honored to visit UI 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 attended the inauguration.
  • We recently hosted two major U.S. business delegations—the 20/20 trade delegation who represent $8 billion of investment capital, and last week’s U.S.-Indonesia Investment Summit that featured 22 more of America’s premier companies.
  • And our two presidents met in Beijing last week, where President Obama praised Indonesia’s regional and global leadership and pledged to support President Jokowi’s ambitious reform agenda.  President Obama also cited the need to work on maritime security to maintain international norms.  Lastly, he invited President Jokowi to Washington, DC next year.

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.

I’m going to change things a bit.  My talk today will be in the form of a Top 10 list: 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.  It is critical that  government and civil society leaders of the world’s largest Muslim majority democracy have rejected ISIL’s violent ideology.  Indonesia’s own transition to a thriving democracy and market economy that offer a future of opportunity and hope for your young people are also valuable example for countries of the Middle East to emulate as they grapple with extremism and despair.

Reason #2: 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.

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 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.  Last week, when our two presidents met in Beijing, President Obama told President Jokowi: “I want to thank Indonesia for the work that it’s done to isolate extremism and to work with other countries on counterterrorism efforts.”

Reason #3: 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, last week at @america we hosted a talk show 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 like Myanmar and Egypt to help them to build their capabilities to improve their governance and promote democracy.

Reason #4: Trade Cooperation

Another reason for optimism in our relations is the growth of our bilateral trade and the prospects for even higher growth in the future.  Through our Comprehensive Partnership, we cooperate bilaterally, regionally, and globally to promote economic growth, sustainable development, and poverty alleviation.  One of the ways we can do that is by supporting an open and transparent, rules-based international trading system.

The U.S. has supported greater Indonesian participation in global bodies, like the G-20, which took place last weekend.  And we seek to reduce barriers to trade and investment through mechanisms such as our Trade and Investment Working Group.

Despite recent double digit growth in trade, we’ve still got a long way to go – Indonesia is currently our 34th largest trading partner.  We welcome Indonesia’s initiative to establish a U.S.-Indonesia Business Council based in Washington DC and we have held workshops to help to support the development of small and medium enterprises.  U.S. support has helped Indonesian companies to buy 200 new airplanes to service Indonesia’s growing demand for air travel and 100 new locomotives to serve Indonesian rail companies.  Indonesia’s future economic promise and its growing middle class are expected to offer American companies significant opportunities for expansion for years to come.

Reason #5: Martime Cooperation

One new area of opportunity could be in maritime affairs.  President Jokowi has prioritized the development of a maritime “axis” to raise incomes and integration across the Indonesian archipelago by improving Indonesia’s maritime infrastructure and transportation capacity.

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 $33 million 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 focus on the identification and prosecution of actors 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.

Reason #6: Environmental Cooperation

These efforts in turn 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 nationally-determined greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and strategies ahead of next year’s UN Climate Summit.

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 South Sumatra.

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. We work with the GOI, the private sector and other donors to develop tools to promote renewable energy and energy sufficiency.

The United States is a large and growing market for Indonesia’s crude palm oil and so we strongly support the effort KADIN has made to broker an agreement with Indonesia’s largest palm oil suppliers to stop planting on high-carbon stock forested 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, we need more sustainable, renewable energy.  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. businesses support the development of geothermal and clean energy resources, and the delivery of power to remote areas.  We’re also working to help Indonesia attract more investment into the oil and gas sector.

In the last year, we welcomed two major clean energy investments, including Ormat Technologies and PT Geo Pacific taking a majority stake in the $250 million Hu’u Dompu Geothermal power generation project and the purchase of revolutionary zinc-air battery technology from Fluidic Energy, which entered into a new contract for $79 million with Indosat.  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.  I know UI is doing its part with its collaborations with UC Berkeley and Columbia University.

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.

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.  China sent the largest group, with about 274,000 students.

For more information about universities or scholarships, check our Embassy website or stop by @america in Pacific Place Mall.  We have a full-time Education Advisor whose job is to help you study in the U.S.  In fact, this Saturday at 1:30 pm, we are hosting a special @america event called “Education is for Everyone” to celebrate International Education Week.  Please come to learn more about U.S. universities and scholarships.

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.  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

We both love social media.  A lot.  When Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg visited Indonesia last month, Pak President took him on ablusukan walk through Tanah Abang.  They were mobbed like the rock stars that they are.  It’s no wonder.  Indonesians and Americans love social media and its 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.

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 the potential 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.