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Ambassador: Indonesia Can Provide U.S. With a China Alternative

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

(Article reposted from Global Atlanta. Written by TREVOR WILLIAMS)

Rattle off the fundamentals, and Indonesia’s potential seems impressive. 

The country has some 270 million consumers with a median age of 29, steady growth rate eclipsing 5 percent, a burgeoning digital economy and status as one of the world’s top producers of palm oil, industrial metals, rubber and other commodities. 

But for too long, the Southeast Asian nation’s trade relationship with the U.S. has failed to live up to its standing as the only ASEAN economy that has cracked into the Group of 20 Industrialized economies. 

The $28 billion in bilateral trade volume pales in comparison even to tiny Singapore, the city-state that serves as a regional trade and logistics hub and a base for many U.S. multinationals in the region.  

But that could change amid a new global trade climate that has pitted the world’s economic superpowers — the U.S. and China — against one another, Indonesian Ambassador Mahendra Siregar said during an Indonesia Business and Investment Forum in Atlanta Wednesday. 

“China-U.S. trade relations have and will continue to cast a shadow over a the global economy,” he said in a keynote speech. “Yet the U.S. administration in my view is addressing what other trading partners in the past have failed to, which is to challenge an export-oriented economy whose industry is highly subsidized and relies on devalued currencies.” 

China’s state-led growth model has created problems for economies that have provided less government support, he said. 

“It has placed a considerable burden on trading partners like Indonesia whose industrial base is very much based on free and fair competition,” Mr. Siregar added. “We understand the view of the U.S. because for the last 15 years Indonesia has been experiencing structural and growing trade deficits with China.” 

In a new era characterized by a skepticism of multilateral deals and the weaponization of tariffs, Indonesia is focusing heavily on positioning itself as an alternative sourcing base and buyer for U.S. companies.

That should please President Donald Trump, who has been preoccupied with trade deficits and has “ordered” U.S. firms to move out of China to prove the effectiveness of his signature trade war. 

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