EU Ambassador responds – Academia
Vincent Piket (The Jakarta Post)
Fri 3 December 2021
The impactful title of Jakarta Post editorial “Jokowi’s fight against the EU” of November 26 might make readers think that EU-Indonesia relations are on the verge of war. This is not the case.
On the contrary, the high-level bilateral visits in recent months by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, and the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, signal a marked expansion of our engagement. politics with Indonesia. This is taking shape in the EU’s new Indo-Pacific strategy, an open door policy towards any country with which we have common interests. ASEAN is at the center of the strategy, and at the heart of ASEAN is Indonesia.
The visits in November by Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Jeppe Kofod and French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves le Drian bear witness to this. Our cooperation is growing in trade and investment, and will take a leap forward once we conclude the Indonesia-EU Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
Indonesian Minister of Commerce Muhammad Lutfi will soon meet European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis to take this issue forward. On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Rome, President Joko âJokowiâ Widodo met EU Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to discuss cooperation on the Indonesian presidency of the G20 and on a sustainable growth program targeting the net zero greenhouse gas emissions objective.
Can the World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge the palm oil biofuel (case filed by Indonesia) and nickel (EU filed) cases all this? No. In fact, while no one sees dispute resolution as a first resort, it is a method of containing a disagreement within its inner perimeter and avoiding spillovers and repercussions elsewhere.
It is a tool to defend its interests without fighting for them and to continue friendly and productive relations in other areas. It’s a way for partners to show that they respect each other, win or lose the deal.
The EU is a loyal and sincere partner of Indonesia. We support its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its 2045 goal of being a high-income country. We recognize the role palm oil and other commodities play in creating jobs and income for millions of people in rural areas.
Contrary to what you write, the EU does not ban palm oil. The import of Indonesian palm oil, whether for food, consumer products or biodiesel, is largely duty free. Going forward, we seek to involve Indonesia and its palm oil industry by ensuring that palm oil is produced in a sustainable manner and will not lead to deforestation. The approach of the recent EU proposal is forward-looking and supportive of sustainable development, it will not penalize the deforestation that has occurred in the past.
Regarding nickel, the EU maintains that Indonesia’s export ban for this product flouts World Trade Organization legislation. Nickel is a vital requirement for the EU steel industry; without it, thousands of jobs can be lost. While defending the interests of the EU here, we simultaneously support President Jokowi’s goal of developing the domestic nickel industry downstream.
In our view, however, the best way – and compatible with WTO rules – to achieve this is to create a solid climate for investment, both domestic and foreign. And between Indonesia and the EU, the best way to do that is to conclude the CEPA agreement as quickly as possible.
EU Ambassador to Indonesia