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Indonesia seeks China's support to extend first high speed railway to Surabaya

Jakarta Post - April 22, 2024

Divya Karyza, Jakarta – Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan told his Chinese counterpart during a visit to Labuan Bajo regency, East Nusa Tenggara, that Indonesia's first high speed railway (HSR), dubbed Whoosh, should be extended to Surabaya.

Luhut met with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday to discuss bilateral cooperation at the Fourth Meeting of the China-Indonesia High-Level Dialogue Cooperation Mechanism (HDCM), an annual event focusing on bilateral trade and investment cooperation.

During the meeting, Luhut pointed to the existing 142-kilometer Whoosh connecting Jakarta and Bandung as one of the exemplary outcomes of cooperation under the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The US$7.3-billion project started operations in October last year.

He expressed his hope that China will continue giving "priority attention and financial support" to the project through its institutions, namely the China Development Bank (CDB) and China Railway Engineering Cooperation (CREC), as well as by stepping up the technology transfer for the existing project.

"We also propose the formation of a joint task force to accelerate the [HSR extension to Surabaya] project," Luhut said in a statement.

Plans to extend Whoosh to Surabaya have been in the works since 2023, and President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo again pushed for the completion of a feasibility study during his meeting with Wang at the State Palace in Jakarta on Thursday.

China is Indonesia's second largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI), after Singapore.

According to Statistics Indonesia (BPS), China has also become the country's largest trading partner, contributing the most trade value in both exports and imports.

Luhut stressed that the government is committed to providing incentives and supporting policies to push the development of strategic industries with the help of Chinese investment.

This includes a planned Chinese petrochemical plant in North Kalimantan, which he hopes will take off in the middle of this year.

"We are inviting other countries to jointly develop this strategic project," he said.

The country's Quarantine Agency (Barantin) head Sahat M Panggabean, who also attneded the meeting, proposed the development of a twin quarantine port to improve agriculture exports from Indonesia to China.

The proposal would link two ports in Xiamen, China, with a port in the Pantai Indah Kapuk (PIK) 2 development project in Tangerang Regency, Banten. The government granted the latter the status of national strategic project (PSN) in March, citing its anticipated economic contributions.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi conveyed in his remarks that China was willing to deepen the synergy between the BRI and Indonesia's development strategy in all aspects.

This includes ensuring the Whoosh HSR remains "a shining example of Belt and Road cooperation" as well as building two more flagship projects, namely the Regional Comprehensive Economic Corridor and the "Two Countries, Twin Parks".

"And [we need to] expand cooperation in the three key areas of digital economy, green development and improving people's livelihoods, to inject new momentum into high-quality Belt and Road cooperation," said Wang, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee, as quoted from Xinhua.

The conversation between Luhut and Wang also delved into several other topics, including agriculture, maritime affairs, food security, health, talent development and education – areas that Luhut hopes will be further explored to deepen cooperation.

Indonesia appreciates China's support for the country's energy transition, industrialization and mineral downstreaming efforts, Luhut said, citing Chinese electric vehicle (EV) automaker Build Your Dream (BYD), which has announced plans to set up a production facility in Indonesia this year as well as to meet the local content requirement (TKDN) policy set by the government.

Luhut also went on to say that Indonesia would assure the continuity of Jokowi's policies as his successor, president-elect Prabowo Subianto, steps into power.

Prabowo and Wang held a closed-door meeting on Thursday after Wang wrapped up a session with his counterpart Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi.

The meeting took place after Prabowo visited China at the beginning of April, where President Xi Jinping praised the ties between the two countries and laid out a vision for regional peace.

Source: https://asianews.network/indonesia-seeks-chinas-support-to-extend-first-high-speed-railway-to-surabaya