The 'number one' priority in Vietnam - Indonesia economic cooperation, messages from President Widodo's visit

WVR - Indonesian Ambassador to Vietnam Denny Abdi shared with the World & Vietnam Report about important messages during the recent visit to Vietnam by Indonesian President Joko Wido.
Indonesian Ambassador
President Vo Van Thuong chaired the official welcome ceremony for Indonesian President Joko Widodo January 12. (Photo: Nguyen Hong)

Could you please share the highlights of Indonesian President Joko Widodo's recent visit to Vietnam (January 11-13)?

President Joko Widodo’s last state visit to Vietnam was in 2018. President Joko Widodo’s state visit this year is to accept the invitation by the President of Vietnam Vo Van Thuong.

This past decade, we have enjoyed robust economic cooperation. It is fundamental to raise this to a higher level as the two countries have also set a vision to become high-income economies in 2045, marking 100 years since our independence in 1945. Hence the objective of the President’s visit is to discuss economic transformation, transforming from a conventional one to an economy driven by competitiveness.

Indonesian Ambassador
Indonesian Ambassador to Vietnam Denny Abdi. (Photo: QT)

In 2023 the two countries celebrate the 10th anniversary of strategic partnership, which was established in 2013. This state visit provides a platform for future elevation to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. This elevation will show a strong commitment between the two countries to cooperate and collaborate further and will open up new opportunities forward.

Through the visit, what are the major directions in developing relations between the two countries in the coming time, especially economic cooperation?

Indonesia and Vietnam have a long history together. Founding fathers of both countries, President Soekarno and President Ho Chi Minh were good friends, and both declared independence just two weeks apart in 1945. Tied by a strong historical background, Indonesia-Vietnam relations continues to grow, specifically marked by the strategic partneship established in 2013.

President Joko Widodo’s state visit in 2024 is focused on laying a foundation to strengthen this partnership and to explore collaboration in various sectors. As developing economies, I believe Indonesia-Vietnam relations should be focused on investing in the so-called future economies. These sectors, which include: agriculture, fisheries, renewable energy, digital economy, and high-tech industries will develop the resources that both countries already possess into high-added value products.

To ensure this, digital transformation is a priority. Digital transformation allows an economy to run much more efficiently. Indonesia-Vietnam collaboration in the digital economy will drive the nation forward. For instance, promote interoperability of fintech in Indonesia and Vietnam.

It also needs to be underlined that despite the priorities on economic growth, this must not come at the expense of sustainability. As both countries strive to reach the net zero emission goals, it is also imperative for Indonesia and Vietnam to work together and find solutions together in its energy transition endeavours. Especially as both partners of the Just Energy Transition Program, discussion, collaborations and exchange of experiences should be intensive as well as extensive.

The two sides agreed to push two-way to exceed 15 billion USD before 2028 and in a more balanced direction. What are your comments on this prospect?

The growth of our bilateral trade has exceeded expectations. In 2022 our bilateral trade reached USD 14.2 billion, far exceeding our target of USD 10 billion in 2023. Due to this rapid development, our 2028 target of reaching a bilateral trade of USD 15 Billion is expected to be achieved much earlier.

As developing economies, Indonesia and Vietnam share similar developments. 2023 GDP Growth reached a notable 5% and 5.05% respectively. Both economies are also driven by the youth population. Partnership between Indonesia and Vietnam has always been conducted on an equal footing, and this must continue to ensure that cooperation between both sides is based on mutual respect and produces mutual benefits.

Indonesian Ambassador
2028 target of reaching a bilateral trade of USD 15 Billion is expected to be achieved much earlier. (Photo: Nguyen Hong)

To strengthen economic cooperation between both countries, connection between government-to-government, business-to-business, and people-to-people connection is vital. Hence we are pleased that in 2023 the first direct flight between our capital cities since the pandemic was also launched, strengthening connectivity between our countries. Furthermore, the Indonesian Embassy will collaborate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, and various counterparts to convene the “Meet Indonesia” event in Khanh Hoa Province in March 2024. This event will connect leaders, experts, businessmen, businessmen, and various stakeholders from Indonesia and Viet Nam.

One prospect that both countries are currently also focused on is the Halal Industry. In Indonesia, the Halal industry is a fundamental part of our economy and of our people. As around 86.7% or 240 million of Indonesia’s population are Muslims – making it the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. Hence both countries can cooperate to develop the Halal Industry in Vietnam. This includes developing a mutually recognized Halal Certification, empowering the Muslim community, and integrating a Halal ecosystem. Unlocking Vietnam’s Halal industry will open up new opportunites for trade, as well as increase tourism in Vietnam from various countries, especially Indonesia.

Within the ASEAN framework, how do you evaluate the role of the two countries in promoting the development of the ASEAN Community?

Indonesia’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2023 carried the theme “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”. In a nutshell, this is defined as our commitment to make ASEAN relevant to everyone, in each member state, in the region, and beyond. Hence whilst Indonesia’s ASEAN Chairmanship is completed in 2023, this theme is largely relevant in all our endeavours.

Indonesia and Vietnam have a significant role in the region. Indonesia and Viet nam are the first and third most populous country in South East Asia with 275 million people and 100 million people respectively. In terms of total GDP, Indonesia and Vietnam hold the largest and fourth largest GDP in the region. Whilst in diplomacy, the Lowy Institute Asia Power Index 2023 ranked the two countries top of the group in regard to Diplomatic Influence in South East Asia. A strong, prosperous, and stable Indonesia and Vietnam will also benefit the growth of the region.

The two countries also share an increasing role in the international stage. Amongst a few are Indonesia’s G20 Presidency in 2022 and Vietnam’s membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2023-2025. These are important for ASEAN as it presents ASEAN a voice in the global stage and it can support the promotion of ASEAN principles in the international community.

The ASEAN community has achieved what many may deem impossible : maintaining mutual respect, tolerance, understanding between the largely different culture, political system, and economic progress of its member states. Indonesia and Vietnam, as ASEAN member states have a key role in promoting the principles of ASEAN community not just between its member states, but also beyond ASEAN. As multilateral relationships should be founded upon the basic principles of cooperating together where our differences should not hinder us from cooperating, instead should become an impetus to pursue collaboration to support each other – as in ASEAN.

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