November 14, 2022
JAKARTA – In a series of meetings between ASEAN countries and their Indo-Pacific partners on Saturday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo continued to advocate for regional peace and stability.
Jokowi kicked off the third day of the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, by attending the ASEAN Plus Three summit with representatives from China, Japan and South Korea.
“The ASEAN Plus Three summit shielded us from the fallout of the 2008 global financial crisis. Now, we’re being tested with an even bigger crisis, but I believe if we can maintain the same spirit, we can weather this crisis as well,” said Jokowi.
He said ASEAN and the three dialogue partners should focus on three main problems: the food crisis, possible economic recession and regional peace and stability.
Jokowi delivered these remarks in front of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, South Korea President Yoon Seok-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
In a later meeting between ASEAN and the United States, Jokowi made the same request to US President Joe Biden, saying that “[the comprehensive strategic partnership] between ASEAN and the US must help bring positive energy to regional peace and stability”.
The US and China’s tug-of-war over influence in Southeast Asia remains a key issue for Indonesia and ASEAN in general.
“Externally, ASEAN has to navigate the intensifying rivalry between major global powers,” said Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Friday.
Global food security
As geopolitical tensions color the ASEAN Summit, Jokowi also raised the issue of food security on Saturday.
“We have to avoid a possible food crisis. The ASEAN Plus Three must strengthen the region’s food resilience and improve our emergency rice supply,” the President said.
He added that ASEAN and the three dialogue partners must work on developing sustainable rice-producing technology while improving logistics among member nations to ensure stable prices and supply chains.
Since the start of the Ukraine war, focus has been shifting from global health concerns to the issue of food security. At the ASEAN-India Summit, Jokowi warned about a possible fertilizer shortage, which could negatively impact more than 2 billion people around the world.
“Combined, ASEAN and India are home to almost 2 billion people, and we have to work together to keep a fertilizer shortage from occurring,” the President said.
Retno had previously raised the issue at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.
“If, as a result of fertilizer [shortages], rice harvests experience a decline or there are crop failures, the welfare of 2 billion people is at stake – the majority of whom are in Asia,” she said at the gathering.
Fertilizer export bans on Russia, one of the biggest exporters of the commodity, have increased the risk of global food insecurity, alongside declining wheat production from Ukraine.
In part to address these concerns, Jokowi has invited India, Australia and Canada to next year’s Indo-Pacific Infrastructure Forum.
“I believe that ASEAN and Australia could kick off several pilot projects from the four priorities of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). With Indonesia’s ASEAN Chairmanship next year in mind, we hope to see Australia’s participation in the Indo-Pacific Infrastructure Forum,” he said in Phnom Penh.
In addition to giving ASEAN and its partners the opportunity to discuss issues affecting the region, the ASEAN Summit represents the end of Cambodia’s chairmanship of the bloc, as Indonesia takes up the mantle for next year.
In a ceremony marking the passing of the torch between the two countries on Sunday, Jokowi reaffirmed his commitment to regional peace and economic growth.
“It’s an honor for Indonesia to assume the 2023 ASEAN chairmanship. Indonesia will transform ASEAN into an epicenter of growth,” he said, as quoted in a press release.
He added that ASEAN should be a force for global peace and stability, and warned about attempts to use the region as a “proxy” for conflict between global powers.
“ASEAN must be a dignified region and uphold democracy and humanitarian values instead of being drawn into current geopolitical tensions and the resulting cold war,” said Jokowi.