Building a Broad Partnership
    Category: Issues & Ideas By : Jessica Fiani Sugeng Read : 972 Date : Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - 05:51:02

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    Vincent Guérend was appointed as the Ambassador of European Union to Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam on September 2015, after holding various French diplomatic positions. Having visited Indonesia in 1998 as a backpacker, Vincent is extremely pleased to be back in Indonesia as the EU Ambassador and is optimistic about Indonesia’s future and the EU-Indonesia relationship.

    What is your main role as EU Ambassador?

    The role has changed in recent years. I myself must reinvent my job because I spent most of my career in French diplomacy. But now I’m here to represent not only France, but the whole European Union. On behalf of member states, I look at trade issues and EU assistance programs in the country. I am also here to further develop political relations between the EU and Indonesia.

    Last December, the EU signed a free trade agreement with Vietnam. Any plans for the same with Indonesia?

    The EU is seeking a similar agreement with Indonesia, a trade agreement called the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement [CEPA]. It is very important since the EU and Indonesia economies are complementary, and enjoy a solid trade relationship. Last year, Indonesia enjoyed a trade surplus of about €24 billion with the EU.

    But this trade figure could be much bigger because paradoxically even though Indonesia is by far the largest country, by population and GDP, in Southeast Asia, we have stronger trade with Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore compared to Indonesia. We believe there is huge potential in bilateral trade with Indonesia. We hope that the CEPA can help solve this. Last year, CSIS said a CEPA would increase the trade volume from Indonesia to the EU by almost $3.5 billion, or up by 17%.

    We strongly believe that through the CEPA, Indonesia could welcome more investment from Europe in many sectors: logistics, maritime, financial, insurance, banking, and manufacturing sectors, and allow European companies to create even more jobs. Currently European companies in Indonesia employ more than 1.1 million Indonesians. We strongly believe this number could be increased, and is an objective of this agreement. President Jokowi wants to conclude the CEPA agreement with the EU in the next two or three years.

    What is the impact of the current slowdown in Indonesia?

    Indonesia has immensely benefitted from the last 10 years with commodity boom, strong demand in China, quantitative easing monetary policy of the U.S. These have fueled Indonesian economy, but now the downturn has come. For these reasons, Indonesia has to find new engines of growth. Growth can come from domestic sources or be complemented by foreign investment—many are waiting to come to Indonesia. These can be the new engines of growth.

    What is the impact of the recent terrorist attack on the EU’s view of Indonesia?

    It is not impacting the willingness of European countries to invest in Indonesia. Because it happened in my hometown of Paris, and sadly in other countries, and it does not indicate anything bad about the investment. Indonesia is such a large country with a strong government system. Much stronger than such an attack. We believe that Indonesia is strong enough.