Foreign Affairs Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi, left, and Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Indroyono Soesilo, right, at a limited cabinet meeting chaired by President Joko Widodo in Bogor, West Java, on Feb. 16, 2015. (Antara Photo/Andika Wahyu)

New Brand of Diplomacy to ‘Sell’ Indonesia Abroad

FEBRUARY 26, 2015

Jakarta. Foreign Affairs Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi on Tuesday shared her plans for Indonesia’s “new brand” of diplomacy, particularly in relation to the economy, following the delegation of a new task to all Indonesian envoys: to explore market opportunities for Indonesian businesses and safeguard those that currently operate overseas.

Extending President Joko Widodo’s vision for a foreign policy that is more “connected to the people,” Retno has repeatedly asserted that economic diplomacy is now among the main pillars of Indonesia’s foreign policy — in addition to protecting citizens abroad and increasing the country’s role at the international stage

Retno — in an exclusive interview with the Jakarta Globe — cited the measures she implemented during her terms as ambassador to the Netherlands from 2012-14 as an example of what she now expects Indonesian envoys to practice.

“When I served as ambassador overseas, I regularly inspected shops selling Indonesian items. During one particular visit I found that these items were missing,” the minister began. “I asked the shop owners why these goods were unavailable and they informed me that there had been a problem with the supplier.

“I asked them the name of the importer. I received the contact details and immediately called Jakarta. Afterward, I managed to trace the problem — where and how it started — before making sure that these items once again lined the shelves of the shops I visited,” she said.

The minister added that she expects all Indonesian envoys to adopt the same pro-active mindset, saying: “The time of diplomats and ambassadors sitting pretty in their office is over. They must go into the field to understand out strengths [in a foreign country].

“They must be able to solve problems that can be detrimental to our exports, for example. They must understand local regulations [of the country in which they are stations], so that we’ll be able to enter those markets well.”

In addition to supporting the country’s exports, Indonesia’s new stance on economic diplomacy will also work to attract foreign investment to the archipelago, especially in sectors that are currently the government’s development priorities, including infrastructure, Retno said.

Indonesian embassies and consulates around the world are now tasked with handling inquiries related to foreign businesses interested in investing in the country. Envoys were briefed on the matter during a meeting in Jakarta earlier this month, she said.

“We agreed during the meeting that any Indonesian embassy [to receives inquiries related to business matters] must supply the necessary information in no later than  three working days,” she added.

Other areas of priority in the new diplomatic undertaking include matters related to food and energy resilience.

The Foreign Ministry has established what Retno dubbed an “economic diplomacy delivery unit,” headed directly by Deputy Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir. The unit will deal specifically with the new policy and coordinate with related ministries and state institutions, such as the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Industry.

“We must not tire in promoting Indonesia. Ambassadors must change their mindsets to not only maintain, but also boost our nation’s economic diplomacy in a variety of ways,” Retno said.

Speaking at the ambassadors’ gathering, Joko reiterated the policy’s aim of bolstering Indonesia’s exports and pushing the trade deficit into a surplus.

“What I know best is the furniture industry and the market is worth up to $480 billion, but  [Indonesia] benefits from only $1.8 billion of that,” said Joko, a former furniture businessman.

“If ambassadors can promote our products, we can create more opportunities to compete in the international market.”