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Jan 12, 2024 / 17:29

Vietnam, Indonesia look for higher relationship status

Both sides believe it’s time to elevate the relations to inspire cooperation, benefit the two nations, and contribute to a stronger ASEAN community.

Vietnam and Indonesia agreed to soon lift their strategic partnership relations to a higher level during the visit of Indonesian President Joko Widodo. 

Vietnamese State President Vo Van Thuong offers Indonesian President Joko Widodo a guard of honor inspection at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on January 12. Photos: Baoquocte 

The idea was shared at the meeting in Hanoi today [January 12] between Vietnamese State President Vo Van Thuong and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who has been on his second official visit to Vietnam since 2018.

Vietnam is the only country with which Indonesia has a strategic partnership.

This morning, Vietnam welcomed President Joko Widodo with a 21-cannon salute, the highest honor given to a foreign leader. The two leaders then attended a flag salute and a guard of honor inspection at the Presidential Palace.

“As the first foreign head of state to visit Vietnam in 2024, President Joko Widodo has brought feelings of warmth, friendship, and sincerity to the nation and its people," said Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong.

“Given the longstanding friendship and significant cooperative accomplishments that the two nations have enjoyed over the past 70 years, it is now necessary to evaluate and elevate the relationship to a new height. This will inspire bilateral relations, directly benefit the two peoples, and actively support ASEAN solidarity, which is essential for regional peace, stability, cooperation, and development,” Thuong stated.

 Cannon salute to welcome Indonesian President Joko Widodo. 

Directions for enhanced relations

At the meeting, the two sides discussed measures to concretize cooperation mechanisms, including the early formulation of the Action Plan for the 2024-2028 period, the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation in information and communications and a MOU on fisheries.

The two countries set a target of US$15 billion in two-way trade by removing trade barriers and facilitating trade in key staples, including rice. Vietnam remains among top three rice suppliers of Indonesia, providing 1.1 million tons of rice worth more than $600 million as of November 2023.

In 2023, trade between the two countries reached an estimated $14 billion. Indonesia is Vietnam’s 3rd largest trading partner in ASEAN and Vietnam is Indonesia’s 4th largest trading partner in the bloc.

Vo Van Thuong requested Indonesia to open its market to Vietnamese farm produce and halal-certified products while encouraging Indonesian companies to invest in the country. Joko Widodo expressed that more Indonesian businesses are eyeing the Vietnamese market and hoped for increased investment from Vietnam.

Regarding investment, Indonesia had 119 projects worth $646 million in Vietnam as of September 2023, specializing in processing, manufacturing, lodging, and eatery. Indonesian companies working in Vietnam include Ciputra, Traveloka, Gojek, PT Vietmindo Energitama, Jafpa Comfeed Vietnam, and Semen Indonesia Group.

Meanwhile, Vietnam had 17 projects in Indonesia costing $59 million, focusing on information technology, agriculture, and industry with the operations of FPT, Dien May Xanh, Vingroup, Viet Thai Group, Thai Binh Shoes, Thuan Hai, mostly a $1.2 billion-project on manufacturing electric vehicles capacity 50,000 units/year to be kicked off in Q1/2024 and complete in 2026.

 The two presidents in Hanoi on January 12. 

They also focused on cooperation in defense-security, maritime affairs, transnational crime, agriculture and aquaculture, education, culture, sports and tourism, opening more direct flights, promoting decentralized partnership and people-to-people ties, smart finance, energy transition, digital transformation and electric mobility. As of October 2023, more than 81,000 Indonesian tourists have visited Vietnam.

Indonesia is one of the first regional countries to establish defense-security ties with Vietnam, with the opening of the Office of Defense Attaché in 1964. The two countries regularly exchange defense-security visits while signing agreements on bilateral defense cooperation and within the ASEAN framework.

On regional issues, the two state leaders stressed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea (South China Sea), maintaining ASEAN’s unity and stance on the East Sea, fully implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the East Sea, and substantively negotiating the Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Senior officials accompanying Joko Widodo include Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Minister of State Owned Enterprises Erick Thohir, Minister of Industry Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Sakti Wahyu Trenggono, Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko, Ambassador Gandi Sulistiyanto Soeherman, among others.

Commenting on Vietnam-Indonesia relations, Indonesian Ambassador to Vietnam Denny Abdi expressed his hope for the upgrading of relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership, noting that “it’s time to lift the relations.” He argued that the move demonstrates the two countries’ commitment to more effective cooperation and the opening up of new opportunities.