The Jakarta Post
As the leader of the world’s 15th largest economy, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will attend the summit of the world’s 20 largest economies in Osaka, Japan, this weekend. Some analysts have cynically described the President’s role in the much-anticipated meeting as little more than that of a cheerleader. They are totally wrong.
On Thursday, the Constitutional Court is to issue a final and binding decision that is widely expected to uphold the victory of Jokowi and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin in the April presidential race. With such a decision, Jokowi would hold a strong bargaining position vis-à-vis other world leaders gathering in Osaka. But regardless of the court’s ruling, Jokowi is the legitimate president of Indonesia until Oct. 20.
Indonesia is in the Group of 20 because of its real economic power. Although it may seem like a cliché, Indonesia’s population, the fourth-largest in the world, its moderate Muslim ethos and its thriving democracy mean that the country stands out.
This two-day summit is certainly to be overshadowed by the trade dispute between United States President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. In dealing with China, the host, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will try to reduce the prolonged distrust between the two countries that is detrimental to both their interests.
Prior to the summit, PM Abe attempted to win the attention of ASEAN leaders, as evident in his opinion article that appeared in this newspaper on June 24. Abe realizes that Japan should not let China, ASEAN’s major trading partner, play too dominant a role in the region. But what benefits can ASEAN draw from Japan, apart from their traditional relations?
The G20 comprises 19 countries — Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the US — and the European Union. The group members are Indonesia’s most important trading and economic partners.
President Jokowi has unveiled the main issues he plans to raise in Osaka. He first of all wants to talk about the global economy and finance, particularly on trade and investment. Second is the need to accelerate the development of the digital economy and artificial intelligence. Third, he will highlight the problem of the quality of employment infrastructure and women’s empowerment.
Naturally, an important forum like the G20 Summit opens up opportunities for Jokowi to pursue national interests either in plenary sessions of the summit or in bilateral meetings held on the sidelines of the annual event.
Jokowi’s presence in the G20 this time around sends two important messages to the world. The result of the April 17 legislative and presidential elections clearly shows that Indonesia remains committed to democracy with a tolerant, moderate and modern Islam as its main driver.
Second, as the world’s 15th largest economy, Indonesia is not begging for donations, charity or economic aid. What Indonesia and the world need the most is the G20’s faith in “free and fair trade” practices.
Hopefully President Jokowi accomplishes his mission.