The Jakarta Post
"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” appeared to be the spirit channeled by Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi in her annual policy speech on Wednesday. Entering 2019, there are not many reasons to be optimistic about the state of the world, but Retno outlined the ministry’s plan to wade through the troubled and murky waters of international politics and try to come out unscathed — if not in better shape.
The minister began her keynote by diagnosing many of the world’s problems — trade wars, geopolitical and nuclear tensions, economic uncertainty — and putting the blame squarely on the retreat from multilateralism. In a swipe at United States President Donald Trump, Retno said the post-Second World War international order was under threat from what she called Me-first policy. “The values of multilateralism that have been nurtured since the end of the Second World War have come under tremendous pressure,” she said.
Against the backdrop, Indonesia will continue to work in a multilateral setting and double down on its commitment to promoting peace and prosperity in the region and beyond. Indonesia has secured a seat on the United Nations Security Council and pledged to use the mandate to promote peace. Moreover, Indonesia is now aiming at securing a position on the UN Human Rights Council for the 2020-2022 term. “As a true partner for democracy, development and social justice, Indonesia is ready to work with other countries to advance and protect human rights,” the minister said.
With democracy coming under attack, Indonesia also made it clear that it would continue to promote democracy as a key part of its foreign policy in 2019 and that the Bali Democracy Forum would be the primary vehicle to meet the objective.
As the world retreats into protectionism, Indonesia is expected to advance multilateralism in governing world trade and continue to build a web of free trade networks with multiple countries from different regions. Aside from pursuing bilateral trade agreements with countries deemed nontraditional markets like Mozambique, Tunisia, Bangladesh and Hungary, Indonesia is working in the context of regionalism with organizations like the Eurasian Economic Union and Economic Community of West African States.
Without a doubt, Indonesia has a stake in multilateralism. The international free trade regime has delivered the goods for Indonesia, with trade figures increasing substantially in a number of nontraditional markets.
“The volume of trade between Indonesia and South and Central America is up by more than 100 percent,” Retno said in her speech.
Disruption to the global free trade regime could deliver a serious blow to the country’s economy, the way geopolitical tensions could pose security threats to the region.
It is likely that challenges would remain in 2019 and beyond, but what Retno has unveiled could assure us that Indonesia can go through the test and continue making a contribution to creating world peace and prosperity.
If anything, with this plan, Indonesia will not only produce lemonade, it could in fact become a lemon trader.