Indonesia hosted the first high-level dialogue on Indo-Pacific cooperation in Jakarta last week. (Antara Photo/Sigid Kurniawan)

Indonesia Hosts Indo-Pacific Forum to Boost Cooperation Between Regional Stakeholders

BY : NUR YASMIN

MARCH 20, 2019

Jakarta. Representatives of 18 Asia-Pacific countries attended a two-day meeting of the Indonesia South Pacific Forum in Jakarta last week to discuss ways to boost cooperation among regional stakeholders.

Topic of discussion during the high-level dialogue with the theme, "Towards a Peaceful, Prosperous and Inclusive Region," and which began on March 21, were maritime cooperation, connectivity, infrastructure and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

In her opening remarks, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi affirmed that Indonesia wants to "facilitate dynamic and interactive deliberations toward deeper and more inclusive cooperation among stakeholders in the Indian and Pacific Oceans region."

"We also use this forum primarily to build mutual trust between the 18 countries and we are pleased that the delegates who attended greatly appreciated the initiative and leadership of Indonesia in holding this meeting and discussing Indo-Pacific cooperation" Retno added.

Present at the meeting, opened by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, were representatives of eight members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) – Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines – and 10 dialogue partners – Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, South Korea, China, Russia and the United States it.

"In the interactive discussion, we examined the complexity and multidimensional aspects in various fields of cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, including development gap, climate change and governance, especially from three perspectives, namely the national, regional and global levels," Retno told reporters after the opening.

Participants also discussed the importance of technology and capacity-building within the framework of regional cooperation.

The minister said she was pleased that all participating countries shared the same vision. "I am pleased to hear so many commonalities or common grounds on the conveyed principles – principles of openness, transparency, inclusivity, Asean centrality, respect for international law and the promotion of cooperation and dialogue in the development of the Indo-Pacific region," she said.

The meeting issued a statement summarizing the outline of the thoughts and aspirations voiced by countries in the Indo-Pacific region. Generally, they identified common challenges, such as connectivity, specifically involving transportation and trade, in the Pacific region; new cooperation in financial technology; maritime economy and sustainable fisheries; illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing; combating climate change through sharing best practices; and low-carbon economies.

This dialogue was considered an achievement as it was attended by all 18 member countries to address development in the Indo-Pacific region for the very first time. It was mainly a way for Indonesia to introduce its Indo-Pacific cooperation conception, as other countries also have their own conceptions. 

"A step has been made by Indonesia and that step would synergize the principles that turn out to be mutually common with the countries in that room," Retno said.

Business Engagement

Besides dialogue among stakeholders, the forum also held a business engagement panel on March 18-22. The closed-door meeting was attended by 139 participants from 15 countries and two territories – New Caledonia and Niue. At least two crucial issues were discussed: cooperation on connectivity improvement and maritime-based sustainable development. 

"The present business stakeholders were from various sectors, such as construction, retail, pharmaceuticals, finance and IT. The most attractive business was Indonesian company Enfiplas, which exhibited biodegradable plastic bags made from cassava," said Desra Percaya, director general for of Asia and the Pacific at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This business engagement is set to be continued at the next event, the Pacific Exposition in Auckland, New Zealand, in July this year.

Last week's forum coincided with an entrepreneurial training program for businesses in the Pacific region, mainly focusing on improving entrepreneurial skills, especially to empower women and the youth.

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