U.S.-Indonesia Relations in 2021 and Beyond: A Time for Hope
Good afternoon and thank you, Ed, for your warm introduction.
It’s a pleasure for me to join you virtually for this speaker event.
As many of you know, it’s been almost one year for me as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia. And what a year it has been. Full of ups, downs, and everything in between.
We witnessed a change of Administrations in the United States. The U.S. rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, while climate-related environmental disasters continued to afflict people around the globe. And of course, we saw the development and dissemination of new COVID vaccines, just as new COVID variants spread across the world.
Undoubtedly, life in the time of COVID is difficult. In one way or another, we all have experienced loss. But I believe in the process, we have gained something valuable too: resilience and hope.
In the course of the past year, I have been incredibly impressed with the dynamism, dedication, and passion of the people of Indonesia who embody the spirit of resilience. Health care professionals, educators, journalists like yourselves, national and community leaders, and other amazing Indonesians who have done so much to help bring their country forward during these difficult times.
For someone like me, who is supposed to be out meeting people all the time, I have to admit I haven’t met as many people as I have wanted, or visited nearly as many places as I would have liked. Hopefully we will get the chance to do that soon. And I mean that. I truly am full of hope. Let me share why I remain so optimistic.
First, the United States is committed to leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic globally.
And we are seeing proof of that right here in Indonesia. The United States this month donated 4.6 million doses of Pfizer vaccines to Indonesia in partnership with COVAX.
This is in addition the 8 million doses of Moderna vaccines we contributed earlier.
And President Biden announced last week that the United States will donate an additional half a billion Pfizer vaccines to low and lower-middle income countries, bringing the total number of U.S. vaccine donations to over 1.1 billion doses.
Besides vaccines, the United States has also donated over 1,000 American-made ventilators currently in use in hundreds of hospitals here in Indonesia.
To date, the United States has provided over $77 million in direct support to Indonesia’s fight against COVID-19, building on more than $1 billion in health-related assistance to Indonesia over the past 20 years.
Through the United States Agency for International Development, the U.S. helps equip Indonesian health workers with the tools they need to stay safe and help others; accelerate case detection and tracking; purchase additional oxygen, enhance vaccine rollout, and provide medical supplies to treat COVID-19 patients and save lives.
Just last month, USAID-supported vaccinators at over 190 mobile and stationary vaccine sites immunized thousands of Indonesians in the greater Jakarta area. And on Sunday I visited one of these vaccination centers where I personally witnessed the incredible work being done getting shots into the arms of Indonesians.
I want to emphasize that these donations are made with no political strings attached. The United States is delivering vaccines to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, with the singular objective of saving lives.
We will continue to support Indonesia’s vaccine rollout effort and help Indonesia move closer toward a safe reopening of its economy. One of our proudest partners in this effort is the U.S private sector, which has been committed to support an inclusive and sustainable recovery from COVID-19 in the areas of human capital development, social and community support, small and medium enterprises support, and in-kind donations of medical supplies and equipment.
As we continue to work together to end the pandemic, we must also chart a path to strengthen economic ties during the post-pandemic recovery. Looking at the sizes
of our respective economies, it is still surprising to me that the level of bilateral trade is only around $30 billion a year.
Indonesia’s GDP is an impressive 1 trillion USD, and is poised to quickly recover in 2022 and beyond. There is great opportunity for U.S. companies to contribute to Indonesia’s economic growth. Despite the pandemic, foreign direct investment grew almost 17% in the first half of 2021. We look forward to advancing the shared market opportunities as Indonesia continues to grow.
An area where we have a strong interest is advocating for policies that support the growth of Indonesia’s digital economy, promote innovation, and ensure market access for foreign firms.
Indonesia is the largest and fastest growing internet economy in ASEAN, with almost 200 million internet users. The current digital economy is projected to grow from $44 billion last year to $124 billion by 2025. As Indonesia expands its digital economy, global supply chains will play a critical role, and U.S. firms stand ready to collaborate to deliver high quality, cutting edge technology.
As we look to build back better, the United States will strengthen its collective efforts to construct sustainable and resilient infrastructure in Indonesia through the Build Back Better World Partnership. President Biden worked with G7 leaders to reach agreement on this values-driven, high standard, and transparent infrastructure partnership that can offer recipient communities the long-run benefits, protections, and transparency they deserve.
We also stand ready to support Indonesia become a global climate leader and achieve greater climate ambition. We view Indonesia as a key country in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is a country that is both a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions and victim to the adverse impact of climate change.
The U.S.-Indonesia bilateral climate engagement framework has increased trust and cooperation between our two countries.
I’m happy to say that Indonesia has made much progress, especially in the forestry and land use sector, when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. Between 2019 and 2020 deforestation was at its lowest rate in 20 years.
Because of climate mitigation programming in agriculture, forestry, and elsewhere, Indonesia saw a reduction of 76 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the land-use sector, equivalent to over 16 million cars off the road for a year.
Indonesia also announced at the second Major Economies Forum on September 17 that it will participate in the joint U.S.-EU Global Methane Pledge that will launch during COP 26 in Glasgow in November.
Clearly, Indonesia should be recognized for the progress it has made.
Along the same line, we believe there is room for Indonesia to do more — room for greater climate ambition. Through Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and his team, we have engaged with the Indonesian government over the past several months and look forward to strengthening this partnership in the months and years to come.
While the pandemic has slowed down much of life everywhere, I can honestly say that diplomacy – especially diplomacy between the U.S. and Indonesia – has not slowed down one bit.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi just returned from her second visit to the United States in as many months, where she held a series of important discussions with leaders in the American private sector to encourage greater investment in the Indonesian economy, particularly in the health sector. During her August visit, the Foreign Minister and Secretary of State held the first U.S.-Indonesia Strategic Dialogue where they discussed a range of critical global and regional issues.
The Foreign Minister’s visits are just the latest in a series of high-level engagements we’ve had between our two countries.
This month we were pleased to welcome President Jokowi to two U.S.-organized summits to help organize a global response to address climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Naturally, the United States recognizes that Indonesia plays an important role in promoting peace, democracy, and stability in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. We share a fundamental belief in democracy and innovation-driven economic growth with our strategic partner Indonesia.
Indonesia is a leader within ASEAN and an anchor of the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. Indonesia and the United States also share a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, including a commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea.
Our shared commitment to the rules-based international order and to multilateralism has provided unprecedented growth in peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific over the past seven decades. Upholding these principles will be essential to maintain stability, resolve tensions, and address challenges.
The vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific is based on values that have underpinned peace and prosperity in the region for generations. Open investment environments; good governance; and freedom of the seas are goals shared by all who wish to prosper in a free and open future.
We are committed to upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty and able to pursue economic growth consistent with international law and principles of fair competition. We will compete vigorously against attempts to limit the autonomy and freedom of choice of Indo-Pacific nations.
We will promote democratic governance and transparency, and work to uphold our values and the rule of law. We will stand alongside likeminded partners and allies to promote respect for international law, institutions, and values that underpin peace and stability.
Key to the achievement of our joint goals is having and enforcing transparency and accountability to promote economic, political, and social inclusion and equal opportunity. Being under the spotlight of the public is essential for a government’s credibility in the eyes of its citizens and for an encouraging investment environment.
The United States is committed to ASEAN centrality and ASEAN’s role in the regional architecture. ASEAN’s efforts over the past decades have fostered a more stable, prosperous, and peaceful Indo-Pacific region. We respect Indonesia’s leadership within ASEAN to develop the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, and the shared principles enshrined in that document that underpin ASEAN’s view for the region.
The Biden-Harris administration looks forward to increased engagement with our ASEAN partners. We have submitted proposals to ASEAN to expand our engagement in the areas of heath, environment and climate, energy, transportation, and gender equality. The United States has been a dialogue partner of ASEAN since 1977 and was the first dialogue partner to establish a resident Ambassador in Jakarta. We look forward to working with Indonesia in its role as ASEAN country coordinator and Indonesia’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2023.
This has also been a ground-breaking year for U.S.-Indonesia defense cooperation. I think we have done more this year, during the pandemic, than we did before it. From the island of Sumatra, the Indonesian and U.S. Air Forces started off the summer with the Pacific region’s largest fighter aircraft exercise in 2021, COPEWEST.
The COVID protocols and processes established by the TNI set the precedent for all exercises the United States has conducted in the region. These pioneering safety procedures resulted in zero cases of COVID from all 250 participants.
In August, TNI and the US Army conducted Exercise Garuda Shield, the largest joint exercise in the history of the Indonesian Army.
Held at three locations across the Indonesian archipelago, Garuda Shield brought together 1500 U.S. soldiers with over 2000 Indonesian soldiers over a two-week period. This exercise was highlighted by the Pacific Air Forces largest airdrop of the year with 9 C-17s and approximately 600 U.S. and 100 Indonesian paratroopers.
Additionally, we just finished Pacific Airlift Rally, which focused on what may be the highest priority training we do, disaster response and humanitarian aid delivery. During Pacific Air Rally, U.S. and Indonesian Air Forces’ C-130s and medical teams came together to work on process and procedures for responding to the worst natural disasters we face.
Our defense cooperation goes beyond training for potential operations, but also involves real-time cooperation and real-world efforts. Earlier this year, we were humbled and honored to participate in the search and rescue operations for the submarine Nanggala-402 and its crew.
Our U.S. Navy aviators and submariners immediately dropped everything to come and assist the Indonesian Navy in their search efforts. It was a heartbreaking situation but also heartwarming seeing the participating nations come together for a common cause. The sailors and the families of the Nanggala-402 are now part of a larger Navy family and the United States will always be there to support friends in a time of need such as this.
Exercises and operations such as these allow our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines to work together with their Indonesia counterparts to improve interoperability, swap ideas for best practices, hone each other’s skills, but most of importantly build a lasting trust and friendship between our two militaries.
In the coming years, the United States will look to increase our participation in military exercises with our Indonesian partners, continue to develop opportunities for cooperation and interoperability, and assist–where we can–to increase Indonesia’s ability to secure its borders and protect its territorial lands and waters.
Like the military partnerships we build via our joint exercises, people-to-people ties should always be at the heart of our relationship. One way we maintain those ties is by facilitating international travel.
I am proud to say that our visa operations are functioning at capacity while being COVID safe. We have also made it easier for Indonesians to renew their visas without coming to the Embassy.
In particular, getting Indonesian students to study in the U.S. is a top priority. I am pleased to announce that we issued more student visas for this academic year than we did the year before the pandemic. Not only that, we have been able to interview every student visa applicant with enough time to spare for them to get to campus on time.
Reaching out to Indonesians during the pandemic has been a challenge. As safety protocols restricted our public engagements, the Embassy made a decision to move to fully virtual programming via our network of publicly accessible American Spaces, including @america.
Throughout the pandemic, we have offered dozens of free programs every month on a range of topics from English language learning, to education advising, to
environmental activism and more. The results have been incredible, with our virtual programming reaching not just hundreds, but thousands of Indonesians – something that had not been possible with purely in-person activities.
We have also broadened our online recruitment across Indonesia for exchange programs with the United States because, frankly, the demand is strong and growing. The number of applicants for the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study Program has tripled in the last two years, and this year we received a record-breaking 35,000 applications.
Of course, we are hopeful to get back to in-person exchanges, programs, events and activities as soon as conditions permit.
In the meantime, we are doing everything we can to strengthen the cultural ties that undergird our bilateral relationship.
From hosting an Education Summit earlier this year that increased collaboration between Indonesian and American universities, to partnering with the Grand Imam of Istiqlal Mosque to develop an @america-inspired unit inside the mosque to counter extremist messaging–as well as promoting gender equality, diversity, tolerance, and Indonesia’s moderate form of Islam– we are making long-term investments that will help move our partnership with Indonesia forward.
I won’t try to claim that everything in the U.S.-Indonesia relationship is perfect. Challenges do exist. And for the next several months, I will be directing my focus on several key areas:
First and foremost is my emphasis on “Moving Beyond the Pandemic.” COVID recovery is still just beginning, and I plan to redouble our efforts toward helping the government here meet its public health goals and prepare for a post-pandemic era.
The United States is taking a comprehensive approach to ending the pandemic, mitigating COVID-19’s harm to people and societies, and strengthening global recovery and readiness for future pandemic threats. This is a moment that calls for U.S. leadership, and the President has made clear that the United States will lead.
As part of this effort, my second priority as Ambassador is “Increasing Trade and Investment” between the United States and Indonesia. I know that Indonesia shares this same goal.
My third priority is “Addressing the Climate Crisis.” Climate change is already a crisis and is impacting the planet in unprecedented ways; causing weather and climate events to increase in severity and frequency. With COP 26 taking place in November, the time for change and action is now.
Finally, one of my most pressing concerns is “Ensuring Regional Security.” The Indo-Pacific is an incredibly important and consequential region, and Indonesia occupies a special place here. No doubt you have heard of AUKUS, an enhanced trilateral security partnership between Australia, the UK, and the U.S., which is focused on sustaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
A free and open Indo-Pacific region is critical to the security and prosperity of the American people, and this partnership will help defend our interests here for generations. It is especially important given the changing strategic environment in the region. This commitment demonstrates our determination to revitalize our alliances and strengthen them to take on the challenges of the 21st century.
In conclusion, I want to add that it has been an incredible honor for me to serve as the U.S. Ambassador during this critical time in our relationship with Indonesia. Looking back, I can say that this has been a year both of challenges and successes. And the work we have done together is nothing short of exceptional.
The next question to ask is, what will the next year bring? A year from now, Indonesia will host the G20. And then, Indonesia will assume the ASEAN chairmanship. The next year will be a pivotal time for the U.S.-Indonesia partnership. But I remain ever hopeful. This is our opportunity to secure a stable, sustainable future, together. Thank you and terima kasih.