President Joko Widodo, right, with South African President Jacob Zuma at the IORA Summit on Tuesday (07/03). (Antara Photo/Rosa Panggabean)

Indonesia Offers Its 'Maritime Axis' Template to IORA

BY :SARAH YUNIARNI

MARCH 07, 2017

Jakarta. Indonesia wants more trade exposure with Indian Ocean Rim Association, or IORA, member countries, which could be achieved by leveraging the country's so-called "maritime axis" ambition to spur economic growth in the region, President Joko Widodo said during the IORA Business Summit on Monday (06/03).

The business summit is part of IORA's 20th anniversary commemoration in Jakarta, during which leaders of its member countries gathered for the first time since the association was established in 1997.

One of IORA's goals is to promote trade among its member countries. The association has found a new relevance recently as the World Trade Organization and the Trans Pacific Partnership continue to struggle with criticism.

"Indonesia wants to strengthen its maritime axis through the IORA," President Joko Widodo said in a statement released by the Foreign Ministry. To that end, the Jokowi administration is building world-class ports across its territory to lower cost and improve the distribution of goods, attract more tourists and also offer vital trade links to Pacific Ocean countries.

The Indian Ocean remains an important cog in the world economy with 55 percent of the world's total oil reserves and 40 percent of its total gas reserves under its seabed. The natural resources should give plenty of benefits to 2.7 billion people who live in the area, according to Ministry of Industry data.

But even though at least 70 percent of the world's trade is being transported through the Indian Ocean — including oil and gas — trade between IORA countries had only grown to $777 billion in 2015 from $233 billion in 1994.

"We [the member countries] have known each other for centuries, but trade potentials within the Indian Ocean rim have been neglected for a long time. President Jokowi urged us to exploit more economic potentials within the region, an effort we need to support," Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said in his speech at the IORA Summit.

"It will also create a momentum for us to rise as a new economic power in the Indian Ocean region," he added.

The IORA member states are South Africa, Australia, Bangladesh, the Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand and Yemen.

During the summit, President Jokowi also stressed the importance of small and medium enterprises in driving economic development, of empowering women by giving them better financial access, of tourism, connectivity and infrastructure.

South African President Jacob Zuma and Mozambique President Felipe Nyusi have also delivered their speeches at the IORA Summit, which is also attended by 300 company representatives, including 83 chief executives from 21 member countries and 7 dialogue partners, including China, France, Japan, the United States, Egypt, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The summit has produced an agreement nicknamed the "Jakarta Concord" to maintain peaceful and stable relations among member states. The agreement's official title is "Strengthening Maritime Cooperation for Peaceful, Stable, and Prosperous Indian Ocean."

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