ECONOMIC DIPLOMACY AS A TOOL FOR PROMOTING DEVELOPMENT

International Trade on Red Container.
International Trade – Red Hanging Container on Sky Background.

By: Edy Wardoyo

President Joko Widodo has already given his policy guidelines on foreign policy priorities by enunciating the principle of putting ‘national interest’ first, namely advancing economic development. President Joko Widodo delivered this message in front of Indonesian Ambassadors on 2nd of February 2015. He emphasized that Indonesian diplomat should change their mindset to be a trader and seek economic opportunity by promoting and selling Indonesian products in the country where they are posted.

The President said that national interests are the motivation for cooperation with other countries and requested Indonesian diplomats to give priority on economic diplomacy, and should be able to attract trade, investment and tourists to come to Indonesia. In this regard, Indonesian diplomat should also have a capability to give protection to Indonesian investors who invest their capital abroad.

The new perspective on economic diplomacy by President Joko Widodo has encouraged the Ministry to equip its diplomats with new tools. The question is how must Indonesia’s diplomats retool themselves?

In reality, President’s guideline to diplomats is not a new thing. Traditionally, Indonesian diplomacy has given a lot of attention and priorities on trade, investment and tourism. Many efforts have been made to attract investors as well as businessmen to have economic, trade and investment cooperation with Indonesia. From the data, Indonesian economy has grown rapidly and been admitted as one of emerging countries in the world. Indonesia is the only country becoming a member of G20 from Southeast Asian countries.

In her first speech as the new Foreign Minister on 29th of October 2014, H.E. Retno LP Marsudi mentioned three important points in the new direction of Indonesian foreign policy. Firstly, give priority on strengthening Indonesia’s economy. Indonesia’s foreign policy should go side-by-side with economic development policy. Secondly, Indonesia’s bilateral relations with strategic partners will be prioritized rather than takes part with multilateral forums. Thirdly, repositioning Indonesian diplomats not only to act as a negotiator abroad, but also as a ‘salesmen’ who takes part in promoting Indonesian products. Therefore, Indonesian diplomats should be able to do ‘blusukan’ in order to know what Indonesia has to be sold in international market.

“Blusukan” Diplomacy

Blusukan diplomacy is a manifestation of ‘pro-people” foreign policy. Indonesian diplomats all over the world must emulate President Joko Widodo’s typical approach of blusukan in the countries where they are posted as part of efforts to supporting economic diplomacy vision and to promoting Indonesian products. The diplomats need to realign their mindsets and be more active.

Blusukan for diplomats would be crucial in identifying problems and finding solutions to address those issues. For example, if an ambassador finds statistics showing that the number of tourists going to Indonesia from the country where he or she is posted is declining, the ambassador must be able to immediately make a report on the factors behind the decline as well as efforts that have been made and should be made in the future.

In such cases, ambassadors could carry out blusukan by visiting tour operators, asking them if they still offered tourism packages to Indonesia and making suggestions on possible improvements that could be made.

Recommendations

The new vision of Indonesian economic diplomacy requires a good relation with many countries as a prerequisite. It means diplomacy could be held smoothly on the mutual benefit foundation between Indonesia and the countries and good understanding between the people. This task couldn’t be done only by diplomats but involves all related stakeholders. In order to do that, Indonesian diplomats should have standard quality such as:

  • Ability to understand how Indonesia influences other countries. Indonesian diplomats should known best on Indonesia’s positional and identity significance of Indonesia’s profile;
  • Capacity to understand country’s perspective on the issue and the cultural aspects and interests of the other countries’ diplomats. Related to this, a diplomat should have an ability to listen carefully to every piece of detail the counterpart is offering;
  • Knowledgeable on Indonesian economy, including its emerging economy status and projected economic growth;
  • Doable in using social media as one of the tools to promote Indonesia to the world and to inform all achievements to be conveyed to the public;
  • Capable to establish effective network with all stakeholders, including in the ministries, public organizations and NGOs.

oOo

Jakarta, 30 September 2016

References

Acharya, Amitav. 2015. Indonesia Matters: Asia’s Emerging Democratic Power. Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific Publishing Company.

Connelly, Aaron L., 2004.  ‘Indonesian foreign policy under President Jokowi’, Analysis.  Sydney: Lowy Institute, October.

Nye, Joseph S. 2004. Soft power: The means to success in world politics: Public Affairs.

Santikajaya, Awidya 2014a. ‘Steady as she goes for Indonesian foreign policy, even with a new president’, East Asia Forum, 27 March.

_____ 2014b. ‘Indonesia: A Potential Leader in the Indian Ocean’ The Diplomat, December 12.

 

 

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