Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Indonesians See US, China As the Right Economic Partners for ASEAN ​​​​​​​

Jayanty Nada Shofa
November 21, 2023 | 4:45 pm
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo speaks to ASEAN Secretary General Kao Kim Hourn at the 43rd ASEAN Summit opening ceremony in Jakarta on September 5, 2023. (Photo Courtesy of ASEAN Summit Media Center)
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo speaks to ASEAN Secretary General Kao Kim Hourn at the 43rd ASEAN Summit opening ceremony in Jakarta on September 5, 2023. (Photo Courtesy of ASEAN Summit Media Center)

Jakarta. Many Indonesians believe that the United States and China are the right partners for ASEAN on the economic front, according to a recent survey.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry and research institute Litbang Kompas recently surveyed hundreds of Indonesians on how they perceive Jakarta’s ASEAN chairmanship. Questions also include on who would be the best partner for ASEAN to work with if the bloc wishes to grow its economic power and become a new epicentrum of growth. The ministry revealed Tuesday some snippets of the survey. The result? The US and China became Indonesians’ top picks for whom ASEAN should work with economically.

“The full report will include [Indonesians’] responses on which partner countries do Indonesians feel are most strategic for ASEAN from the economic, political security, and sociocultural standpoints. … The study shows that Indonesians feel that the US and China are the right economic partners for ASEAN,” Edi Suharto, a senior official at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, told a hybrid conference in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Respondents said it would be best for ASEAN to team up with the US to address political security issues. Japan also became the top pick among Indonesians for the best ASEAN partner to build “sense of togetherness” in the sociocultural community, according to Edi. 


The diplomat did not go into details on how many respondents picked Washington-Beijing as the most strategic economic partners. Nor the other two areas of cooperation.

Data, however, shows that ASEAN has been enjoying strong economic ties with both rivalring countries. According to a US Government fact sheet, the US is the largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Southeast Asia. More than 6,200 American businesses have contributed to a record $520.3 billion in total US-ASEAN trade in 2022. 

Chinese Premier Li Qiang brought up China-ASEAN’s skyrocketing trade when attending the bloc’s summit in Jakarta in September. Li said China-ASEAN trade volume topped $970 billion last year, more than double the volume a decade ago. They have also been each others’ top trading partners for three years running.

China is part of the world’s largest trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). All 10 ASEAN members --along with Australia, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand-- have also signed the RCEP. The pact substantially eliminates tariffs on goods traded between its signatories. 

US President Joe Biden last year launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). Initial IPEF members include seven ASEAN economies, namely Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The IPEF is not a typical free trade agreement, and does not include tariff reduction negotiations. Member countries, however, are currently negotiating cooperation on trade.

Edi’s presentation combines two surveys with the first taking place in late April prior to the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo. The second one was a few days after September’s ASEAN summit in Jakarta. The first survey had 502 respondents, while as many as 510 people took part in the second one. About 70.7 percent of the respondents in the first survey believed that ASEAN could become an epicentrum of growth.

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