Jakarta – Indonesia and the United Kingdom have agreed to improve trade and investment cooperation to boost economic recovery while strengthening initiatives in counterterrorism and efforts to ensure stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
The countries reached the agreement after Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi met with her British counterpart, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, in the 3rd Indonesia-UK Partnership Forum meeting in Jakarta on Wednesday.
Indonesia and the UK agreed to focus on 10 priority sectors, including timber and agricultural commodities. The two countries planned to sign on April 19 a memorandum of understanding on a Joint Economic and Trade Committee tasked to realize the goals.
"I also raise Indonesia's concern about the proposed new legislation in the UK which requires due diligence on our agricultural commodities, such as palm oil, cocoa, and rubber," Retno said.
"Regarding this matter, I hope the two countries can work together to overcome it, including through a joint working group in the field of agricultural commodities," she said.
According to Indonesia and UK joint statement, the working group would "facilitate a discussion on Agricultural Commodities in order to support sustainable production and non-discriminatory, two-way sustainable trade based on mutual respect of national legislation and mutual understanding of standards and certification."
The joint group establishment could mark a step forward for palm oil, Indonesia's biggest agricultural export commodity, which had received severe backlash in Europe the past few years for the industry's role in deforestation.
The UK, however, had noted "Indonesia's internationally verified success in reducing CO2 emissions from deforestation, forest degradation and significantly reducing forest fires hot spots in recent years," the country said in the joint statement.
Indonesia's bilateral trade with the UK reached $2.24 billion last year, making the latter its fifth-largest trading partner in Europe.
The Southeast-Asian economy also offered opportunities to invest in Indonesia's Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), multibillion-dollar investment funds that have secured a commitment from countries like United Arab Emirates, Netherland, the United States, Canada, and Japan.
Retno said that Indonesia also explored the possibility of a Bilateral Investment Agreement (PIB) with the UK.
Defense, security, stability
Both countries also agreed on strengthening defense and security cooperation. The signing of the MoU on Counter-Terrorism will strengthen cooperation between the two countries in the security sector. Meanwhile, efforts to increase defense cooperation include the holding of the Joint Defense Cooperation Dialogue.
"In the future, I hope that Indonesia and the UK can encourage cooperation in the fields of the defense industry and human resource capacity, peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, and disasters, as well as maritime security," Retno said.
Apart from bilateral cooperation, Retno and Raab also discussed international issues such as Myanmar, the Middle East's situation, preparations for Britain to host the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Glasgow, and the Indonesian presidency at the G20.
Regarding Myanmar, both agreed that violence should be stopped immediately to prevent more victims and the importance of creating a conducive atmosphere for dialogue.
"We also discussed issues related to the Indo-Pacific, and I reiterate that the Asean Outlook implementation on the Indo-Pacific is based on key principles such as inclusiveness, transparency, openness, and cooperation," Retno said.
Retno said that Indonesia sought to strengthen partnerships in the health sector through research and development initiatives and collaboration in the Covid-19 vaccine production. The UK, which is also one of the sources of the Covid-19 vaccine, is the right partner to develop cooperation in this field, Retno said.
"Health cooperation is critical to building resilience in our health industry. Solidarity and cooperation are the keys to getting out of this pandemic," she said in a statement.