February 8, 2024
JAKARTA – The Indonesian government has downplayed reports that its accession bid to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has stumbled upon Israel’s objection, saying that no formal decision has been made regarding the country’s application.
Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto said that the government continues to engage in discussions with the OECD, and a decision regarding Indonesia’s accession has not been reached.
“We’re still in the application [phase]. After this, we need to create a road map and adhere to it. [Our proposal] could be approved or not. The process is still lengthy,” he said during a press briefing on Monday.
Nikkei reported on Sunday that Israel had expressed objection to Indonesia’s accession process to the OECD during the OECD ambassadors meeting on Jan. 29 and 30, citing anonymous diplomatic sources.
Israel is not necessarily opposed to Indonesia’s membership but mentioned the situation in the Middle East and Indonesia’s criticism of the country’s military actions in Gaza. The lack of diplomatic relations between Jakarta and Tel Aviv also reportedly serves as a supporting factor.
Edi Prio Pambudi, undersecretary for international cooperation at the Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister, said that, based on his discussion with the OECD secretariat, there are no member countries opposed to Indonesia’s accession bid.
“The last OECD council meeting has not made a decision as member countries requested more time. Currently, the majority of member countries are working to accelerate Indonesia’s accession decision,” Edi told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
He also said that the OECD is an economic partnership institution which promotes policies with the orientation to best practices in advanced countries and therefore has no relation with geopolitical issues.
Indonesia has shown an interest in becoming part of the OECD since 2022 to accelerate its transformation into a developed country. Prior to its bid, Indonesia had cooperated with the OECD on several occasions, including as a key partner in 2014.
At the same time, the country decided not to submit any application to join BRICS, another multilateral group comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
The decision on whether to open the process for Indonesia’s accession into the organization was initially scheduled to take place during an OECD ministerial council meeting between December 2023 and January 2024.
The Nikkei report suggested that Israel’s objection may disrupt Indonesia’s bid to join the OECD, as the organization requires unanimous agreement among its member countries to make decisions.
Indonesia has long supported the freedom of Palestine and, along with other countries in Southeast Asia, condemned Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip. It has also participated in diplomatic efforts to promote a permanent cease-fire in the conflict and wider access for humanitarian assistance.
In January, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi led the Indonesian delegation in a walkout alongside dozens of other diplomats during an address by Israel at a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting.
The ministry explained that the walkout was prompted by the absence of Israeli’s permanent representative when Indonesia and delegates from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) were delivering their speeches.
Responding to the report on Israel’s objection to Indonesia’s OECD bid, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lalu Muhammad Iqbal said that discussions about new OECD membership were held internally among existing members. Therefore, Indonesia is not participating in the discussions.
“Indonesia does not see any relation between our consistent attitude to support Palestine with our application [to become] a member of the OECD,” Lalu said at a press conference on Monday.
Researcher at the Center of Reform on Economics (CORE) Yusuf Rendy Manilet said that Indonesia still has a unique bargaining value for the OECD, including a large gross domestic product (GDP) which could attract international investors from OECD member countries.
He opined that the government should approach the OECD as an institution to approve Indonesia’s accession bid rather than starting bilateral communication with Israel.
“I think the government has calculated the risk, so the proposal to join OECD will not directly change Indonesia’s geopolitical view on Israel and Palestine,” Yusuf told the Post.
He also noted that Israel’s reported objection to Indonesia’s accession to the OECD may be seen as another form of geopolitical retaliation. The move mimicked economic sanctions that many countries have imposed on Russia, after its invasion of Ukraine.
In contrast, Dandy Rafitrandi, an economics researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), suggested the government begin either formal or informal discussions with Israel.
He opined that the objection may be caused by limited communication between the two countries because of the lack of diplomatic relations. Thus, the government needs to verify whether the move was politically motivated or not.
“Indonesia should have considered that an accession proposal to the OECD means it must communicate with other country members, including Israel,” Dandy told the Post on Tuesday.
Nevertheless, he doubted that Israel’s objection would have a significant effect, as major countries such as the United States and Australia have expressed support for Indonesia’s bid.
During President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s visit to the US for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November, US President Joe Biden expressed his support for Indonesia becoming a full member of the OECD.
Australian Senator Don Farrell also showed his support for Indonesia’s accession in November during ministerial-level negotiations in the US.