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Jakarta Post

Jokowi softens stance on TPP trade deal

  • Tassia Sipahutar

    The Jakarta Post

Palm Springs, US   /   Wed, February 17, 2016   /  06:12 pm

President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo seems to have softened his stance on Indonesia'€™s intention to join the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as he instead takes a cautionary stance in proceeding with the mega trade deal.

When talking to Indonesian journalists in Palm Springs, California, Jokowi said it might take two to three years to complete TPP deliberations and negotiations, after first expressing an intention to join the 12-member trade bloc late last year.

'€œCaution is of the utmost importance in calculating this. Everything must be calculated for the sake of national interests. It is all still in process,'€ the President said.

The TPP, one of the world'€™s biggest multinational trade deals that covers 40 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), was signed by Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam earlier this month, but years of negotiations and ratifications by local lawmakers loom.

There is widespread opposition to the TPP in many countries, including in Indonesia, with many saying it may do the country more harm than good due to its degree of economic liberalization.

The House of Representatives is especially concerned about state firms as the TPP will level the playing field for state-owned enterprises and private companies. Twelve laws would need to be revised to allow for the implementation of the TPP here, raising more concern about the supremacy of the trade deal, lawmakers have said.

Jokowi first expressed Indonesia'€™s intention to join the TPP when speaking before representatives of a number of American companies during his first official visit to the US in October. At the time, he said Indonesia had an open economy with its 250 million people and that it intended to join the TPP.

As if dismissing speculation over possible new TPP talks during his second US visit, the President insisted that the trade pact was not on the government'€™s agenda at the two-day summit held by US President Barack Obama with leaders of the 10-member ASEAN on Feb. 15 to 16 at Sunnylands Estate.

'€œOur presence here has nothing to do with the TPP. [The issue] does not exist in the US-ASEAN Summit,'€ he said.

At the same press conference, Trade Minister Thomas Lembong also reiterated the long journey that Indonesia must take to complete TPP membership, citing both political and technical processes.

'€œThe reason we wanted to join is our national interest, to improve our economy and create jobs. The President has been very strict and clear in his instructions to negotiate rightfully, to defend the national interest and ensure that this is beneficial for us,'€ Thomas said.

'€œThe process will take a long time and the government will surely not be greedy,'€ he added.

Meanwhile, Obama said in his remarks at the opening of the summit that four ASEAN members '€” Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam '€” had committed to high labor and environmental standards when joining the TPP.

At the end of the summit'€™s first day, he announced the establishment of a US-ASEAN trade workshop.

US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said it would consist of a series of workshops to help ASEAN members understand the provisions and requirements of the TPP because '€œa number of countries have expressed interest in joining the TPP'€.

'€œIt'€™s an invitation and recognition that the TPP is meant to be an open architecture. It is meant to be that countries that can live up to the high standards of this agreement should have an opportunity to join the agreement eventually,'€ she added.

Pritzker went on to say that the workshop was '€œa wonderful step forward, the commitment by our administration to be able to train countries as to what'€™s in the [TPP] agreement'€.

On the second day of the summit, Jokowi will speak about counterterrorism efforts before US-ASEAN leaders. After, he is scheduled to visit US technology giants Facebook, Twitter and Google.

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