TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - On his second official visit to Indonesia, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte made it clear that his country considers Indonesia as a strategic trading partner. He was accompanied by three ministers and around 200 business delegates while visiting Semarang and Jakarta on November 22 to 23. “Indonesia is the biggest economy in Southeast Asia and the Netherlands is the main European destination for Indonesian export,” said Rutte adding that last year, the trade between the two countries amounted to €3.2 billion.
In the midst of his busy schedule, the prime minister talked with Amanda Siddharta and Mahardika Satria Hadi from Tempo along with two other media about the bilateral relations between Indonesia and the Netherlands. Excerpts:
What would you like to focus on, during your second visit here?
Well, for me the visit builds on the previous one in 2013, so it means to extend the business relations, investments to and from (the Netherlands). Particularly focusing on issues like water and infrastructure, like flood protection but also agriculture and climate change. Those are the four main issues.
Do you have a target that you would like to achieve in terms of business deals?
You can never tell because most of the trade deals will happen later on. It’s about building a relationship. So in some case, we’ll see the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Letter of Intent (LOI), aiming at future cooperation. In another case, it is the closure of a process which has started years ago. But I’ve learned over the years in trade missions, you can never point a finger to an amount, this is the number of dollar or euros.
Jokowi has introduced the economic policy package, how has this helped in increasing trade and investment with the Netherlands?
Well, what I hear back from the businesses is that they find it increasingly easy to do business here. But still, there’s room for improvement. I think 13 reform packages. Of course, it now comes down to the implementation of this measures. But it is highly welcomed by all business community that he’s making it easy to do business in Indonesia. I think that’s his main aim.
So, do you expect an increase of Foreign Direct Investment to Indonesia?
I think it will no doubt facilitate Foreign Direct Investment and trade. It also will help Indonesia in becoming one of the top 10 in the world. If you look at the population you’re the 4th most populous country in the world and in terms of natural resources you have ample opportunity. So, I guess the ambition of Indonesia to be a top 10 player is fully logical. But that will also mean that you need to implement all these policies in ease of doing business. So these packages are highly welcomed.
In relations to the water management and land reclamation, will the Dutch government continue to assist Indonesia?
Of course, Indonesia is in the lead here, that’s crucial, we can only offer assistance. When the decision is taken here, then we can offer our knowledge. But we also learn a lot here that we can apply back home, it’s a mutual relationship. Because half of the Netherlands is below sea level, so we are constantly fighting the water ourselves. So we’re learning from what you’re doing here and apply what we’ve learned in the Netherlands.
Lately, we’ve seen a heightened sentiment against Islam in Europe, especially from far right politicians. How would this affect the relationship between a European country like the Netherlands with a Muslim-majority country?
Not at all because I will fight in Europe wherever I can on these entire anti-Islam tendencies. I think it is totally unacceptable to fight faith. What we have to fight is terrorism. That will not influence the relationship at all. Indonesia is a perfect example of one of the biggest democracy in the world, with different faiths but still maintaining a very balanced society. I would never as a liberal politician judge somebody on their faith.
Last week, there was the disappearance of the remnants of Dutch warships from the World War II in the Java Sea. What will your government do on this matter?
On that issue, first of all, it’s a very sad news for everybody. Particularly of course for the descendants of the people who lost their lives in the second World War, in the Java Sea. It’s important to get clarity on what happened. I don’t want to speculate on what happened, but we need clarity. But I’m very happy that Netherlands and Indonesia are working together on this. Both governments will work together on this to find out what happened.