The Jakarta Post
Indonesia and the Netherlands pledged to continue enhancing bilateral ties on Wednesday as President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and visiting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte agreed to improve cooperation on trade, investment, water management and maritime infrastructure development.
On Wednesday morning, Jokowi invited Rutte to a meeting at the State Palace where the two also agreed to continue improving existing partnerships between the two countries, which face common challenges, such as rising temperatures and sea levels globally, the need for sustainable food production and the threat of terrorism.
“Together we can build a strong common future,” Rutte said.
Rutte was accompanied on his visit by a large delegation of around 200 businesspeople, in a move Jokowi said showed the commitment of the Dutch government and private sector to the ongoing improvements in cooperation with Indonesia.
Later on Wednesday, Jokowi invited the CEOs of six major Dutch companies, mostly already operating in Indonesia, to the palace where they discussed plans to expand their investment in Indonesia.
Among them were the CEOs of oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell; Van Oord, a contractor specializing in dredging and marine engineering; the Damen shipyard group; and Royal Vopak, a logistics and distribution service provider to the chemical and oil industry.
The two countries also inked six agreements covering cooperation in maritime affairs and fisheries, climate change, waste management and recycling, education and training in agriculture and training for Indonesian diplomats.
“By sharing knowledge and expertise, we can find inventive and integrated solutions that benefit not only the economy, but society and the environment as a whole,” Rutte said.
A total of 38 memorandums of understanding and letters of intent were signed by officials and businesspeople of both countries during Rutte’s three-day visit.
The Netherlands is one of Indonesia’s main European partners in trade and investment, although last year the value of Dutch trade and investment declined.
Bilateral trade amounted to US$4.22 billion in 2015, down from $4.89 billion in 2014. Meanwhile, Dutch investment in the largest economy in Southeast Asia, in 421 projects, declined to $1.31 billion in 2015, from $1.73 billion in 2014.
In the first quarter of this year, Dutch investment in Indonesia amounted to $266.93 million in 208 projects.
Rutte’s visit to Indonesia, which is his second in the past three years, was made amid what he described as “sad news” about vanished war graves in the wrecks of Allied, including Dutch, warships sunk during World War II, which are thought to have been ravaged by scavengers.
But Rutte thanked Jakarta for offering to cooperate to investigate the recent disappearance of the shipwrecks in the Java Sea.
Although the Indonesian government has denied any wrongdoing, it has offered help by setting up a joint investigative team. “We’ll work together to find clarity on what happened and we will coordinate in the future,” Rutte said.
After the meeting, Rutte presented Jokowi with a keris, a traditional Indonesian dagger, one of the artifacts in the Nusantara collection stored in a museum in the Dutch city of Delft, to symbolize the plan to repatriate a total of 1,500 Indonesian artifacts from the Netherlands.
The two countries have a long history of bilateral ties, but Jokowi’s tough stance on the death penalty has strained relations between them, particularly when a Dutch citizen was among a number of death-row drug convicts executed in January 2015.
Although it is Rutte’s first visit to Indonesia since Jokowi assumed office, the two have previously held bilateral meetings, such as when Jokowi visited The Hague in April, during which he invited his counterpart to invest in Indonesian infrastructure projects, particularly in the maritime sector.
A month earlier, the two also had a short bilateral talk on the sidelines of an international forum in Sanya, China.
Rutte first visited Indonesia in November 2013 when he met then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. At that time, Rutte also met with Jokowi in the latter’s capacity as Jakarta governor.