Indonesia eyes US economic partnership

JAKARTA • Indonesia is interested in pursuing a bilateral economic partnership with the United States after the world's biggest economy abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) accord, an Indonesian official said yesterday.

South-east Asia's biggest economy is also reconsidering its intention to join the TPP, said Ms Dewi Fortuna Anwar, deputy secretary of the office of the vice-president.

"Our emphasis going forward is more on a bilateral economic cooperation between the Republic of Indonesia and the US," Ms Dewi Fortuna said. "It would be a comprehensive bilateral cooperation, including for trade and investment," she said.

Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla met the US Ambassador to Indonesia, Mr Joseph Donovan, yesterday to discuss ways to increase trade between the two economies.

Indonesia will focus on discussions for bilateral trade deals with the European Union and Australia, while monitoring the progress of the TPP, the chairman of Indonesia's investment board, Mr Thomas Lembong, told reporters separately.

"I've seen the Australian Trade Minister's comment asking for China and Indonesia to join TPP to replace the US. I haven't had the chance to speak with him, but I am open to discussion and dialogue," Mr Lembong said.

During a visit to Washington in October 2015, President Joko Widodo told the then US President Barack Obama that Indonesia intended to join the Pacific multilateral trade pact. Australia and New Zealand said on Tuesday they hoped to salvage the TPP by encouraging China and Indonesia, among other Asian countries, to join after new US President Donald Trump kept a promise to abandon the accord.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying on Tuesday did not say directly whether China would be interested in joining the TPP. But she said at a time of economic uncertainty, the Asia-Pacific should make its own contributions to growth with openness.

Mr Obama had framed the TPP without China in an effort to write Asia's trade rules before Beijing could, establishing US economic leadership in the region as part of his "pivot to Asia".

China has proposed a counter pact, the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) and has championed the South-east Asian-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Indonesia is the lead negotiator for RCEP for economies in Asean.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2017, with the headline 'Indonesia eyes US economic partnership'. Print Edition | Subscribe