Indonesia to push for better trade balance with China during Premier Li Keqiang's visit

File photo of Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi (left) with China's Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, on Feb 9, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK ) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo is going to push for a better trade balance with China in his upcoming meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in the Bogor Palace on Monday (May 7), the foreign minister said on Friday.

Mr Li will arrive in Indonesia on Sunday and leave for Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday. The visit would be his first as premier as he had previously visited Indonesia in 2008 when he served as deputy premier.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the visit would mark the fifth year of Indonesia and China's strategic comprehensive partnership.

She said one of the most important things President Jokowi wanted to discuss in the meeting was the economic partnership.

"In the meeting with Premier Li, we want to ensure that the Indonesian-Chinese trade deficit would be narrowed," she told reporters on Friday.

Between 2015 and 2017, she said, Indonesia had managed to reduce its trade deficit to 11.63 per cent.

"This is significant progress, which is not easy. This meeting will be used by the President to increase exports from Indonesia to China," she said.

"The only way to narrow the gap is through active engagement," she said, adding that Indonesia had to maintain good relations with any country.

"Indonesia is not the only country that sees China as an important partner, but it is worth underlining that maintaining relations is not a zero-sum game; we always want to develop winwin results."

She said achieving a win-win solution with any country was the issue President Jokowi had been pressing in every occasion. "We want to ensure that Indonesian interest is always well reflected in those meetings," she said.

Among the commodities Indonesia wants to promote in China are palm oil, swift's nest, mangosteen, salak, bananas, coffee and cocoa. She said China was a major importer of Indonesia's palm oil.

She also said Indonesia wanted to ensure investments came with transfers of technology to add value to the labor and improve the environment.

"We want quality investment that really brings benefits and supports development. We never see it as zero-sum and want to ensure a win-win situation."

In 2017, China was ranked as the country with the third-largest foreign investment in Indonesia at US$3.36 billion, a significant increase from US$2.66 billion (S$3.55 billion) in 2016.

Since China introduced its Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, its outbound investments, including to Indonesia, increased significantly. The initiative is an ambitious road, rail and construction project spanning dozens of countries.

Last month, Indonesia and China signed five contracts worth US$23.3 billion for several infrastructure projects such as a hydropower plant and a facility to convert coal into dimethyl ether, among others.

In addition to discussing bilateral issues, Ms Retno said: "It is not impossible that regional issues will be discussed."

For example, she said, on the Korean Peninsula, Indonesia's and China's positions were clear in that they were both in support of the peace process and the reunification of North Korea and South Korea.

Meanwhile, she said Indonesia was concerned about developments in the South China Sea.

"If the reports are confirmed, this will be worrying and disrupting the existing confidence-building measures to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea," she said, "and we are calling on all parties to restrain themselves and not be provocative and respect international law."

She said Indonesia's position was consistent with Asean's position on the issue. She said over the years, Asean had sought order through a declaration of conduct and the ongoing negotiations for a code of conduct.

"In the last Asean Foreign Ministers Retreat, we issued a statement that we do not want any militarisation in the South China Sea," she said.

Reports from a US broadcaster claim that China has installed missiles on disputed reclaimed islands in the South China Sea.

She said Mr Li's visit also marks the 15 years of the Asean-China strategic partnership.

"Premier Li will also meet the Asean secretary-general in the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta," she said.

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