The Jakarta Post
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo has insisted that Indonesia will benefit from joining the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) despite strong criticism from experts and lawmakers.
Speaking at the BNI-Kompas 100 CEO Forum on Thursday, Jokowi said joining free trade agreements such as the TPP would prompt Indonesia to improve the standard and quality of its products to ensure that it would be able to compete in the global market.
'I have told all government officials that the country's vision in the future should be prepared in such a way so that we will be able to face global competition,'' Jokowi said, adding that with the growing trade globalization trend, it would be impossible for Indonesia to isolate itself from the world.
According to Jokowi, competition in the global market could help Indonesia become more efficient, which in turn would help the country's economy become more flexible in facing economic downturn.
Jokowi said Indonesia must enter global and regional economic integration as it had become the focus of talks in international and regional trade forums such the ASEAN Summit, G20 and APEC.
'I told [US] President Barack Obama that Indonesia intended on joining the TPP, and perhaps other pacts such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [RCEP], because we will get left behind if we don't take a chance,' Jokowi said.
Should Indonesia decline joining the TPP, Jokowi said the country would lose the competition with its ASEAN neighbors, such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, which have joined the trade grouping.
'The important thing now is that we negotiate and identify in detail our weaknesses and strengths before joining the pact, rather than retreating and becoming pessimistic before we even start competing,' he said, adding that the government will prepare 'institutional and regulatory ammunition'.
Sofjan Wanandi, chairman of the Vice President's advisory team, said recently that the government was establishing a special team to thoroughly review free trade agreements, such as the TPP, that would comprise staff from relevant ministries and other experts.
Poppy S. Winanti, chairman of Gadjah Mada University's Center of World Trade Studies, said the special team should focus on conducting thorough reviews on the costs and benefits of joining the TPP, rather than preparing 'ammunition', as the country had many options to weigh before making a final decision.
'Compared to our neighbors that have already joined the TPP, we are different as we have a large domestic market, so that we can play a rather larger role in the RCEP,' Poppy said, adding that the President's stance on the topic had left a 'big question mark'.
Lawmakers Mahfudz Siddiq, chairman of House of Representatives Commission I, and Airlangga Hartarto, member of House Commission XI, said the government should consider the negative impacts of making a hast decision to join the TPP.
'A country should measure its competitiveness level before joining regional free-trade agreements. Indonesia should be more focused on the ASEAN Economic Community in 2016, while a thorough review is needed for the TPP,' Mahfudz said.
On the other hand, Indonesian Food and Beverages Association (GAPMMI) chairman Adhi S. Lukman said the TPP could benefit his industry, while adding that 'we have proposed the formation of a national committee in which all sectors could discuss the matter together.'
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