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Analysis
12-12-2016
June S Syarief, the head of African, European, and Russian Affairs division, the Ministry of Trade.
ASEAN could defeat both America and Europe

Presented in a roundtable seminar of experts on the theme "Building tyhe strategies of balance of power in reactualizing Indonesia's free and active foreign policy", organized by the Global Future Institute (GFI) in collaboration with the students of the Faculty of International Relations of National University that are members of Vox Muda on Monday, December 5, 2016, in Jakarta.


Presentations delivered by some previous speakers are good enough both its content and ways of presenting. On this occasion I want to focus on the trade aspect in regard with the big theme of today's seminar. As already stated by previous speakers, that our free and active foreign policy as already stated in the preamble of the 1945 Constitution that independence is the right of all nations, but the other part it is emphasized that we adhere to the international regulations.

However, one question that I wish to put forward in our seminar today is related to the gap between what affirmed in the preamble of the 1945 Constitution and the controversy growing over the meanings of paragraphs 1 and 4 of the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution. Between the single or dual loyalty, which one are we inclined to embrace when faced with a conflict of interest between the domestic and international regulations. This is in my opinion clearly not mandated by law of ours now.

I think, as the result of our dialogue with one of the Australian academics that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which is an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is the most ideal to ne engaged in for this time. Instead of being ambitious it still leaves room for each member country of the RCEP to protect themselves. In other words, RCEP is siding for our national interests.

If we review through bilateral relations with other countries, the United States has still ranked first in the trading rate for partners. The second is Japan, then China, and Russia is in the 8th to ASEAN. While with Africa, still comes out 40th in terms of trade balance. But to have access to markets in Africa, frankly speaking there has been no any movement at all.

Bilaterally the Indonesia's relationship with Africa, Indonesia has done it. One of which is related to the construction of the Indomie company. So how does the relationship between ASEAN and China? Why ASEAN is not so interested in collaborating with China? Because China is a bit difficult to be invited to cooperate on a regional basis. As stated by Mr. Hendrajit that China tends to encourage bilaterally relations first, then regionally. Ideally, the regional relations are the first, following a consolidation among member states, and then holding bilateral relations with China.

Unfortunately, that is also done by Japan, and even now would be done by Europe through the European Union. But all that is still under the ASEAN consideration. And that has direct contact with my own work areas, namely Russia, in fact there have been many Russian policies giving more advantage to Indonesia. If for ASEAN, Russia has also offer some cooperation that are ready to be poured in various agreements.

For the EU itself, they have still continued the old projects. Indonesia has collaborated with the European Union since 2009. In some Asian countries, we have a lot of cooperation bilaterally. Thus, on this occasion I would like to emphasize the importance of Indonesia to reactualize trade relations with foreign countries. Indonesia is a large and powerful country. Not just for coming 50 or 70 years but more than that. Unfortunately what having been stated in the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution are not elaborated through articles of the law, as derived from the preamble and the articles in the 1945 Constitution itself. So we did not know whether we tend to mono-loyalism or dualism. Are we obedient to the rules in our own country or the international rules. Now this is not clear.

Then related to government policies which must be referred to the legislation, it is not at all able to summarize the problems that we face today. That's my view. So that what decided by President Jokowi, in its development has even clashed with the laws.

Here is the simple illustration. At the Ministry of Trade alone, where I have worked, sometimes there are things trounbling our work. That is why we do need to reactualize trade relations with foreign countries. Why? First, our foreign policy is supposed to run with reference to the existing regulations. In addition, inter-agency coordination, of course, also among ministries, should be further enhanced. So that there are no clashes between ministries, simply because of differences in regulations from different ministries related to its activities abroad. When each has its own rules and there is no inter-ministerial coordination, then we are so difficult to explain our programs.

In terms of cooperation with ASEAN, it may actually be more focused, if compared with our cooperation relations with major countries in the north such as the United States and Western Europe. Therefore, I propose that in addition to our focus to ASEAN, we must create a more cohesive cooperation with ASEAN, to be able to access and organize overseas markets. Moreover, there are predictions that if ASEAN succeeded in one mission and one voice, ASEAN could defeat both America and Europe.

If ASEAN failed to build cohesiveness in the sense of one mission and one voice, then the efforts of various major countries to push toward bilateral cooperation with each ASEAN country, will be more easily conducted. And it will only weaken ASEAN and in particular Indonesia. Because ASEAN can not be in one voice representing the ASEAN spirit. If ASEAN is not united in one mission and one voice, then access to overseas markets may not exist. Because the major countries will not protect countries such as ASEAN, including Indonesia.

The idea towards ASEAN cohesiveness seems to be more grounded due to the weakening of the EU following the release of the UK, as well as sanctions imposed by America and Europe to Russia.

This is the context of reactulaizing foreign policy in the field of trade as I was getting earlier. Hopefully this can be a material to be further discussed. Thank you.
 



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