The Jakarta Post
After much speculation over President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo's reluctance to attend a number of high-profile international events next week, the government finally confirmed that Jokowi would attend the 27th ASEAN Summit and related conferences in Kuala Lumpur next week.
According to Foreign Ministry officials, Jokowi cannot afford to miss the regional forum, as the occasion is considered crucial to the development of a number of relevant issues in global trade and regional security.
Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said on Thursday that the President was slated to attend both the G20 Leaders Summit in Antalya, Turkey, on Nov. 15 to 16, and the ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 20 to 22.
Jokowi is likely to miss the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Forum in Manila between Nov. 17 and 20, where those in attendance are expected to include big hitters like Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama.
Derry Aman, the ministry's director for ASEAN intraregional cooperation, said that this year's summit was especially important for the country, given its imminent entry into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
'The significance of the upcoming summit is that ASEAN will officially become a community on Dec. 31. The ASEAN Summit will cement the establishment [of this framework],' Derry said in Jakarta on Thursday.
He added that the regional grouping would also look to officiate the post-2025 ASEAN Vision, which comprises three documents dictating the bloc's direction: a blueprint for politics and security, a blueprint for the economy and a blueprint for social and cultural affairs.
The vision will serve as a common platform for current and future cooperation among member states.
Apart from the main summit, ASEAN leaders will also meet with their counterparts from major neighboring countries such as China, Japan and South Korea in the much-awaited East Asia Summit.
Meanwhile, Vice President Jusuf Kalla has been assigned to attend the APEC Leaders Forum, accompanied by Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi, Trade Minister Thomas Lembong and a train of delegates.
'All three conferences are important and Indonesia is committed to participating in all three events. However, because of a number of issues demanding the special attention of the President, Vice President Kalla will attend the APEC Summit and coordinate further proceedings with him,' Arrmanatha told a press briefing.
He insisted that despite Jokowi's absence, Indonesia would push a number of issues at the APEC Summit, including liberalization of trade in development goods like palm oil and rubber, which had, he said, a direct and important impact on the grassroots population.
APEC is a forum for 21 Pacific-Rim economies to promote free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
The summit in Manila will promote efforts to develop inclusive growth and highlight the role of small and medium-sized enterprises with a focus on interregional and national connectivity, as well as maritime cooperation.
The next ASEAN Summit is intended to showcase the 10-member bloc's progress toward economic integration, as the regional grouping officially enters the AEC in January next year.
The forum will likely be overshadowed by overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea, with China claiming most disputed areas. Other claimants include Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam.
The issue, Derry said, while not on the formal agenda, could still be brought up by claimant states from ASEAN or its East Asian counterparts.
He also asserted that Indonesia would step up its efforts to push for peaceful dialogue among claimant states.
'In the context of maintaining regional peace and stability, [we will push for] the full implementation of the DOC [Declaration of Conduct]. We'll also continue to push the deliberation of the CoC [Code of Conduct] in the South China Sea,' Derry said.
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