The Jakarta Post | Senin, 12 November 2018
Malaysia, Indonesia’s next-door neighbor, made history when it voted and swore in earlier this year 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister for the second time, as it hopes for a fresh start following political turmoil from its previous government.
Malaysian Minister for International Trade and Industry Darell Leiking is one of the new ministers appointed two months after PM Mahathir’s inauguration in May. The Jakarta Post’s Rachmadea Aisyah talked to Leiking during his recent visit to Indonesia to discuss the newly appointed minister’s take on bilateral relations between Indonesia and Malaysia at present and in the future.
Question : Would you like to start by describing the current state of bilateral trade between Malaysia and Indonesia?
Answer : This is my fourth month as international trade and industry minister, and this is my second trip to Indonesia.
During my first visit to Indonesia, I had the chance to meet all the [related Indonesian] ministers Pak Enggartiasto [Lukita, Indonesian trade minister], [Coordinating Investment Board head] Pak Thomas Lembong and Pak Eko Putro [Sandjojo, villages, disadvantaged regions and transmigration minister]. We’ve also had many meetings with the Malaysian diaspora here as well some of your industry.
In this second trip, we were not able to meet our counterparts because they are very busy and we also had meetings with the German industries here, and at the same time we were also invited to give our views in an Oxford-style debate just now on whether global trade has been [damaged]. We gave our opinion but it was more toward finding a solution as opposed to saying that it is [damaged].
I do agree there are some problems in global trade because each country has different views. […] I said we need rewrite our economy […] probably may even rewrite it within ASEAN, [about] how we deal with our counterparts in other coalitions of economy. I’d like to zoom in on PM Mahathir Mohamad’s suggestion for Malaysia to join forces with Indonesia to battle negative sentiment surrounding crude palm oil (CPO) in the European Union and India. How are you going to follow up the PM’s wish?
We have to have bilateral trade with those countries and hope that they can listen to us the Indians and the Europeans. When it comes to palm oil, a common industry that Indonesia and Malaysia both have, we cannot ignore the impact of the blockade and opinions given by Europe on our palm oil. We are in conversation with the Europeans and even India. We are lucky that there is the CPOPC [Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries] in Asia so [the council | is speaking on behalf of Malaysia and Indonesia as well the partners of the CPOPC. Moving on to the topic of the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), what is Malaysia’s stance on the agreement under the leadership of Indonesia as the lead coordinator for Southeast Asian countries in the talks? We are like Indonesia as well.
We are very careful in finalizing our terms but I hope that the RCEP can be fair to everyone and we will try our best to conclude the RCEP as soon as possible because it is a combination of existing rules and agreements between us within ASEAN and at the same time we want to make sure that the ASEAN Bloc [The ASEAN Free Trade Area] becomes a reality. I think Indonesia understands our position as well. It is not about protectionism but we are concerned about the investment dispute mechanism that the RCEP has but [I believe] they will improve it. At the same time, my personal position is that we should trust our own judicial system. When there is investment dispute, we must trust ASEAN countries’ [respective] judicial systems. In Indonesia, its judicial system just like Malaysia’s should be trusted as well.
However, within the RCEP, there have been discussions on this investor dispute settlement and we have requested a couple of methodologies to deal with the issues. What other cooperation or partnership schemes are attractive for Malaysia to work with Indonesia, be it bilateral or multilateral? I think our relationship with Indonesia has been going well. I know [Indonesia] faces some problems as well, just like in other countries. But ultimately, what Indonesia and Malaysia can do is to synergize with each other because the two countries are closely connected, culturally and also even down to social and family ties. Some people in Malaysia are connected to Indonesian families and with that, I think we have no reason not to work together.
Indonesia and Malaysia, both having a majority Muslim population, should be able to work together to resolve issues of halal products and certification and even how to deal with halal tourism related to the two countries. Both countries must understand each other and work together to achieve a big piece of the global halal market. Being Malaysia’s newly appointed international trade and industry minister, you certainly are bringing fresh visions to Malaysia’s trade relationships, including with Indonesia. How do you foresee the bilateral trade relationship with us going forward?
First, what I know is that it is not the ministers who are bringing fresh ideas the whole team is, because everybody who had shackles from the previous regime is now free. We are no longer constrained by expectations from the previous regime and now have more desire to build our nation. Now, Malaysian representatives in Indonesia, through the embassy and other agencies have a better sense of direction and sense of belonging just like other Malaysians, which we need to become an Asian tiger as our PM has always aspired to be.
So, we are doing this for our nation. I remember that the Indonesians had their own way together through Pancasila. Malaysia [like Indonesia) is a combination of different ethnicities, beliefs and races, but we Malaysians all want to rebuild our nation, too, so that we can walk alongside Indonesia and be proud that we are Malaysians. Do you have any messages to Indonesian businesses and the government? We understand what they are going through and we pray that you will recover and you will be able to face whatever challenges you have in your currency and in your economy, just like I know you will always pray for Malaysia to be successful with our challenges.