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In U.S. Visit, Indonesian President Joko Widodo Calls for Elevated Partnership

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Widodo Announces Intent to Join Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In his historic inaugural visit to the United States as head-of-state, President of the Republic of Indonesia Joko Widodo demonstrated the importance of Indonesia-U.S. cooperation on global affairs and his vision for realizing the full economic partnership between the two nations.

In a Monday meeting, President Widodo and U.S. President Barack Obama highlighted the shared interests between two of the world’s largest democracies. “The United States has a great interest in being a partner with Indonesia, and I think our meeting today helped to emphasize the nature of what we believe is a key strategic partnership,” said President Obama.

President Obama also emphasized Indonesia’s tradition of tolerance and moderation, noting Indonesia’s important role in countering the message of extremist groups.  “Indonesia I think is uniquely positioned to be able to help spread a message of peace and cooperation and modernity within the Muslim world,” he said.

President Widodo welcomed the United States’ strategic “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific. He also expressed concern regarding developments that undermine peace, security and the economic well-being of the Asia-Pacific region and reiterated Indonesia’s support for the successful conclusion of a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea.

Following the meeting, President Widodo announced his country’s intent to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). “Indonesia is an open economy, and with a population of 250 million, we are the largest economy in Southeast Asia,” he said. “And Indonesia intends to join the TPP.”

In a Joint Statement released following the bilateral meeting, Presidents Widodo and Obama committed to forging a Strategic Partnership, established an annual Ministerial Strategic Dialogue, affirmed their commitment to further strengthen bilateral defense cooperation, and pledged to continue and strengthen bilateral cooperation to counter terrorists and other extremist groups.

Indonesia and the U.S. concluded Memoranda of Understanding on Maritime Cooperation and on Energy Cooperation. Additionally, the Indonesian Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense issued a Joint Statement on Comprehensive Defense Cooperation.

At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, President Widodo joined business leaders from across the U.S. and Indonesia to finalize twelve major transactions and new partnerships totaling $20.25 billion (USD) (news release). In remarks at a Gala Dinner following the signing ceremony, the President outlined his aggressive reform agenda to cut regulations and improve the investment climate. “I was a businessman for 22 years,” he said. “I do not like filling out forms. I do not like things to be complicated. I like things to be simple and efficient.”

In a major Foreign Policy Speech at the Brookings Institution (video) on Tuesday, the President addressed challenges facing emerging markets, and outlined Indonesia’s strategy to achieve sustainable economic growth and assert global leadership in this new environment.

“We are not becoming inward looking,” President Widodo said. “Our interest in regional and international investment is as strong as ever, and will be stronger in the years to come. Our foreign policy will continue to reflect our national interest and our international obligations. We will bring prosperity to the Indonesian people. We will work with our partners to bring peace to the Asia-Pacific. We will fulfill our obligation to create a better world.”

Speaking to a capacity crowd in English, the President articulated his intent to enhance investment in infrastructure throughout Indonesia and implement reforms designed to “free up the private sector from poorly conceived policies, excessive paperwork, and misguided protectionism.” The President reiterated the centrality of ASEAN to Indonesian foreign policy, and noted Indonesia’s intention to transform into a maritime “fulcrum” in both the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

On Tuesday Vice President Joe Biden hosted the President for a luncheon at the Naval Observatory.

President Widodo also met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in a session hosted by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and attended by Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA).

The President met with Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) CEO Dana J. Hyde to discuss the progress of MCC’s $600 million Indonesia Compact, the largest in Asia, which is at the mid-point of its five-year term. During the meeting, Hyde and Widodo reiterated their deep commitment to sustainable growth and poverty reduction in Indonesia. The President also addressed Indonesia’s investment climate before a meeting of major fund managers at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel.

President Widodo began and concluded his trip with engagements with the Indonesian community and diaspora, at the Indonesian Ambassador’s residence and the Indonesian Muslim Association in America (IMAAM) Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, respectively.