Novy Lumanauw, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi' Widodo has met with representatives of Indonesia's most powerful business lobbies this week to convey his intention of helping local industries seize opportunities created by the ongoing trade war between the world's two biggest economies.
The United States and China respectively accounted for 11 percent and 14 percent of Indonesia's non-oil and gas exports in the first quarter, according to data from the Central Statistics Agency, or BPS.
Exports to the two countries were down 5.2 percent and 11 percent, respectively, compared with the same period a year ago, suggesting that Indonesia has yet to find a way to shield itself from the trade war.
Vietnam also saw its China-bound shipments fall by 5 percent over the same period, but managed to increase its exports to the United States by 25 percent.
Jokowi told key members of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) and Indonesian Young Entrepreneurs Association (Hipmi) at the State Palace that the country must focus on economic matters after attention had centered on the elections for months.
"We know the election has been completed, even though there is still a process in the Constitutional Court," Jokowi said, referring to his rival, Prabowo Subianto, challenging the result in the country's highest court.
"But we hope to refocus, concentrate once more on economic matters, especially the trade war, which is becoming increasingly fierce," he said.
Present at the meeting were Kadin chairman Rosan Perkasa Roeslani and his deputies Carmelita Hartoto (transportation), Shinta Widjaja Kamdani (international relations), Anindya Bakrie (regional empowerment), Juan Permata Adoe (food and livestock), Raden Pardede (public policy), Ilham Habibie (research and technology), James Riady (health and education), Hendro Gondokusumo (property), Adi Sulisto (state-owned enterprises) and Yugi Prayanto (maritime affairs and fisheries).
Hipmi was represented by its chairman, Bahlil Lahadalia, and deputy chairman, Yaser Palito, among others.
Jokowi asked the business leaders to come up with three policy suggestions he can execute quickly to help the country benefit most from the trade war.
"We should not view it as a big problem, but in my opinion, there is an opportunity; there is an opportunity we can take from the height of this trade war," he said.
The president said he would like to see Indonesia fill the gap in the electronics, textile and furniture markets left vacant by Chinese producers in the United States. "I see you all at the forefront of taking advantage of this opportunity," Jokowi said.
Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) chairman Hariyadi Sukamdani, who met with the president on Thursday morning, said the business lobby wanted to see the government reduce more red tape and double down on efforts that have been proven to raise the country's competitiveness.
"Looking at the developments in the world today, it's very precarious if there is no anticipation at all," Hariyadi said. "The main thing is how to make the economy more efficient, competitive. We must be aware of our competitor countries," he added.