By: Yuni Suryati
Economic Diplomacy became a buzzword in Jokowi’s Presidency. Extending the President’s vision for a foreign policy that is more “connected to the people”, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Retno Marsudi mentioned that in addition to protect the Indonesian citizens abroad and increase the country’s role at international stage, Indonesian foreign policy is also intended to improve the economic diplomacy as the main pillars, and Indonesian diplomat should be more active in economic diplomacy. Within this framework, a diplomat should play as a marketer to support the country’s trade and to attract foreign investment, especially in the sectors in which the government’s development priorities.
President Joko Widodo also asserts that these policies aim to increase Indonesian exports and turn the trade deficits into surpluses. Given the fact of the data released by Indonesian Central Bureau of Statistics on September 2016, since the 1970’s Indonesia has been recording consistent trade surpluses due to robust exports growth. However, from 2012 to 2014 the country started recording trade deficits, as exports shrank due to slowdown in the global economy and fall in commodity prices. In 2015, trade balance swung again to surplus due to almost 20 percent fall in imports. In recent years, the biggest trade deficits were recorded with China, Thailand, Japan, Germany and South Korea. Indonesia records trade surpluses mainly with India, United States, and Malaysia.
Regarding the national investment, Indonesian Government has been set up several projects mostly in developing Indonesian infrastructures such as deep-sea ports, airports, roads, bridges, etc. The Government also invited numerous countries, international financial institutions, as well as CEO s from huge companies to invest in Indonesia. President Joko Widodo also had put himself as a marketer by doing the promotion when he attended various international forums or conducted a bilateral meeting with leaders from friendly countries. These initiatives tend to be very effective and efficient in bringing a lots of attentions from international community. Henceforth, the approaches wouldn’t need to be done by the President himself. The promotion on trade and investment should become the responsibility of the diplomats as of their strategic position who have always been at the forefront in the international arena. With proper guiding, planning and organizing, diplomats could be a powerful group of marketers in ushering and promoting the national interests, especially to establish the investments into the country.
Given the task as a diplomat was referring to the implementation of international relations through the intercession of professional diplomats with regard to issues of peace-making, trade, war, economics, culture, environment, and human rights, therefore the economic diplomacy policy surely will change the mindset. Facing a change of mindset, a diplomat needs to equip himself/herself with additional skills as a marketer.
In dealing with the economic issues on trade, a diplomat must be creative, innovative, pragmatic, and equipped himself/herself with the knowledge and skills about several things such as: the potentials of the Indonesian products; the needs of the local market in the country where he/she posted; the regulations, tariffs, and incentives of the imported goods; and develop networking with stakeholders in Indonesia and his/her counterparts abroad.
In terms of investment, a diplomat must retools himself/herself with the Indonesian government interest and the economic stimulus packages that has already launched by the government to attract more investor to come to Indonesia. For examples, economic stimulus packages that focuses on the acceleration and simplification of procedure in business licensing in an industrial economic zone; the period needed for having a license for business in the zone is shortened to three hours from eight days; and the firms investing over 100 billion rupiah (some 6.8 billion U. S. dollars) with more than 100 employees would not need environmental permit and location permit if they invest in growing industrial estate.
Diplomats must know how to do the market research by doing “blusukan” (on the spot and spontaneous visit). They can be agents to investigate and opening the door for the formation of Indonesian product marketing into the countries accreditation, and vice versa.
To conclude, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has an obligation to provide an education and training for diplomats about how to do the market intelligent research. Moreover, the Indonesian Embassy abroad has to be active on organizing trade, tourism, and investment forum which are involving stakeholders from Indonesia and from the receiving country. Furthermore, these forums should be able to produce measurable results and visible benefits significantly.
Jakarta, 30 September 2016.