Bettering the Relationship
Category: Issues & Ideas By : Justin Doebele and Lanny Alfiani Read : 678 Date : Friday, August 12, 2016 - 07:20:26


Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

Trevor Matheson has been Ambassador of New Zealand to Indonesia since January 2015. With three decades of diplomatic experience, he has had six overseas posting, including ambassadorships to Australia and Switzerland. He was also ambassador to Saudi Arabia, a post that included the Gulf states, and Italy, a post cross-credited to the Mediterranean and Balkan states. Forbes Indonesia interviewed him in the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta.

What is your main mission as ambassador?

I have to ensure the New Zealand Bilateral Aid Program in Indonesia is effective. The three pillars of our relationship are renewable energy, disaster management and agriculture. Indonesia’s first geothermal power station was built by New Zealand around 50 years ago. Indonesia and New Zealand are very similar in one way, as we both sit beside the Pacific ring of fire. We are both vulnerable to natural disasters, so we are working closely in disaster management. We are also one of the world’s great agricultural countries, so are deeply involved in agriculture and a desire to help Indonesia. Underpinning that is two crosscutting pillars, namely education and a focus on Eastern Indonesia.

What are the main challenges in the relationship?

We may have differences in a few certain things, but New Zealand’s way has always been soft diplomacy. We had a dispute over beef access and regretfully decided to take Indonesia to WTO. Six years ago Indonesia was our second largest beef market, and now it has dropped out of our top 10. We only exported 15% of the previous amount. The Indonesian government was, in our view, inconsistent with WTO rules and we couldn’t find an agreement. It was the very first dispute New Zealand has taken against Indonesia. We have never lost a dispute in WTO—but it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about reaching understanding and agreement about trade. New Zealand wants to trade within a framework of international rules and regulations, and in a fair manner.

So how do you see a resolution?

The best solution is for a third umpire to resolve it—the result of that panel is expected later this year or early next year. Aside from that, our trade otherwise is really good. We have the Young Business Leaders Initiative, an opportunity to increase trade and goods. Simultaneously, while always respectful of the Islamic faith, we’d like to export more wine to Indonesia. We do it respectfully, as most of it goes to hotels and restaurants. I’m happy we’re making good progress and moving ahead. We can disagree about beef, but can put it aside and get on with business. I’ve been very pleased that our relationship is mature. We don’t stop everything because of one dispute. That’s very positive.



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