Jokowi + Biden’s diplomatic partnership

Last Monday, 13 November, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and President Biden entered into bilateral discussions, marking a historical new phase in their relationship. The two nations agreed to elevate their relations from a strategic partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership (CSP), a topic previously discussed between Vice President Kamala Harris and Jokowi at the ASEAN summit in September1. This meeting, however, was not an isolated event but rather part of a bigger diplomatic picture. The talks coincided with the Third Indo-Pacific Economic Framework Ministerial Meeting (IPEF-MM), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ week, and a one-on-one meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Biden two days later.

From Indonesia’s standpoint, this marks a significant diplomatic achievement, particularly amid the current and escalating web of geopolitical uncertainties and tensions. Key developments centered around semiconductors, sustainable energy targets, strengthened defence cooperation, and Biden’s endorsement for Indonesia to attain full membership in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). One of the main topics was sustainable energy and raw minerals. As the US looks towards diversifying its nickel supply chain, ultimately to minimise its reliance on China, Indonesia is poised to reap these trade benefits as the US pivots towards other places. Indonesia ranks first in global nickel reserves, second in tin, sixth in bauxite and seventh in copper globally2. The meeting concluded with both governments committing to develop a critical minerals action plan. Indonesia has actively pursued this agreement to enable tax credits for electric vehicles (EVs) made from Indonesian minerals under Washington’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)3.

Conversely, the IPEF talks encountered challenges. The IPEF focused on enhancing cooperation in trade, supply chains, clean economy, and fair economy. Negotiated agreements around the supply chains had already happened earlier this year, while governments discussed and reached conclusions around clean and fair economy targets. However, the trade segment did not reach an agreement, reportedly due to “domestic political considerations”4.  As the world’s first supply chain agreement, critics highlight the lack of concrete trade solutions as a significant downfall, posing a specific setback for the Biden administration, which initiated the IPEF in 2022.

[1] Witt, Daniel & Astuti, Esther., (2023), “Jokowi’s visit to Washington: An opportunity for the US”, November 15, The Jakarta Post.

[2] Ghosh, Nirmal., & Soeriaatmadja, Wahyudi., (2023), “US, Indonesia elevate relations, but some hurdles remain”, November 15, Asia News Network.

[3] Sulaiman, Stefanno., (2023), “Indonesia to propose limited free trade deal with US on critical minerals”, April 10, Reuters.

[4] Pambagyo, Iman., (2023), “Indonesia in Global Economic Map: Reflection from APEC Leaders’ Week in San Francisco”, November 19, Jakarta Globe.


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