Weighing Indonesia’s Australia Policy: Think about it, is it worth it?

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The Jakarta Post’s Editorial on Friday (10/19) tells a story of how Indonesian Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi, is threatening Australia that Indonesia will drop the almost concluded Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA CEPA).

This is because Retno hears the possibility of Australia to follow US policy on Jerusalem.

It is interesting to see that it is Retno, instead of the President, who threatens to drop the CEPA seeing that Jokowi also expressed his concern to Scott Morrison through a diplomatic call, but not reportedly threatening to drop the whole CEPA thing.

The Editorial said that Retno was “angry” in her WhatsApp message to her Australian counterpart, Marise Payne. Maybe it is because Palestinian Foreign Minister was in Jakarta on Thursday and Retno wants to defend her guest.

Since when did Indonesia become a country that likes to throw threats when other country makes a move that is not in line with Indonesia’s foreign policy?

I believe that threatening to drop IA CEPA is not a strategic move. All the resources that Indonesia has poured into the process will go in vain.

Among the benefits that Indonesia will get from the CEPA are:

  1. Quota increase in holiday visa issued by Australia for up to 5000 per year.
  2. Employee exchange for transfer of knowledge.
  3. Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) which will increase the standards and competencies of Indonesian workers to an international level. This MRA will also increase the competitiveness and market access for Indonesian medium and high-skilled workers.
  4. Internship programs for 200 Indonesian citizens in nine sectors, including education, tourism, telecommunications, infrastructure, health, energy, mining, finance and ICT. This will be part of Vocational and Education Training programs under the Ministry of Manpower.
  5. Tariff exemptions for 7000 Indonesian products. This will greatly benefit Indonesia as according to Indonesia’s Director General of International Trade Negotiations, Mr Imam Pambagyo, “if [Indonesian] products can enter Australia, then they can enter Commonwealth countries. Our long-term target is to enter the global market.”
  6. Encouragement of Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises development in Indonesia.

This agreement is not just a Free Trade Agreement. According to Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita, this CEPA comprehensively covers goods, services, investments, and economic cooperation.

The work to conclude CEPA is of course not only the work of Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Retno, but it also includes the contribution of other ministries such as that of Trade under Minister Enggartiasto Lukita.

Threatening to drop CEPA with Australia because Australia potentially follows US policy is not strategic for some reasons:

  1. Australia is a sovereign country, and they have the right to have an independent foreign policy.
  2. Indonesia will lose way more if the CEPA is dropped, as the CEPA really benefits Indonesia in many ways.
  3. All the resources used during the negotiation will go in vain.
  4. Australia has its own reasons in governing their own foreign policy, and it is not up to any other country to meddle to their foreign policy, as the reason for their foreign policy may derive from domestic issue, in which any other country will never have the right to interfere with.

Given the situation, I think we need to take a moment to ask ourselves, is it worth it?

International Relations enthusiast

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