Three months ago, on August 24, 2023, President Joko Widodo visited South Africa to attend the BRISC summit and in the prior month, in July, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi was present at the virtual session agenda among BRICS members. In that virtual meeting, she praised BRISC by saying “We all have a responsibility to repair an unhealthy global order. And BRICS has the potential to be a source of positive power”. Jokowi’s appearance on the summit and good impression of BRISC from Marsudi implies Indonesia’s attractiveness to join the bloc. Indeed, Indonesia was among 40 others countries in the queue, as reported by Reuters.
BRICS, as generally known as China-Rusia led initiative was an acronym for its incorporated members containing countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The bloc was fierce stereotyped as the competitor against the liberal order institutions led by Western economies such as G7, the Multilateral Financial Liberal Order like IMF and the World Bank, as well as contemporary expanded and transformed European economy group: OECD. While it was clearly written on its official website that BRICS adopted the principles of “non-bloc nature”, in reality it is hard to avoid the assumptions of ‘international society’ that the group is standing by Russia and China. BRICS was proposed, moreover, by Russia under President Vladimir Putin in 2006 on the sideline of the UN General Assembly meeting. The fact that increasingly strengthen the nature of anti-western camp.
The eagerness of the Indonesian government to join the board thus brings out the presumption that Jakarta now is deviating from its sanctified foreign policy of “active and free”. Deflecting its grand strategy was indeed preceded by Indonesia’s decisions to be bandwagon with China in its various initiatives such as BRI and AIIB. Indonesia’s image leaning towards the east as Sukarno had experienced is avoidable and reflected in Indonesian politics today. Even though such a decision described how pragmatic Jokowi’s foreign policy was, one cannot belie the apparent validity that China now serves as a critical partner for Indonesia’s development. The existence of China as the founding of BRICS substantively was the main driver for Jokowi to follow suit.
However, due to the critical voices against the Jokowi administration that presuming its positioning more takes side toward China in the global strategic rivalry evidenced by China’s massively investment, coupled with Indonesia’s reformist staunch shown so far upon financial and trade multilateral order that coincidently resonates with similar insistence launched by the Chinese government to the IMF and others led-west economic institutions, it is significant for Jakarta to balance its standing point by getting into western-economy led group like OECD (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). Jokowi does not want Indonesia to be counted as China’s tail. Seeking membership in the OECD at least could obscure the perception of Jokowi’s actual intimacy with China.
Despite the significance of the OECD in blurring such proximity, for Jokowi, the organization also is a good medium to increase Indonesia’s bargaining position in the face of Western countries. Indonesia often encountered resistance from Western particularly with regard to its economic approach to crude palm oil export policy, and the latest one was raw mineral export prohibition. The attendance of Indonesia in the OECD can ease the tensions and further catalyze the communication between both parties. The argument is in line with Yusuf Rendy Manilet’s voice, a researcher at Center of Reform on Economic. He stated that apart from the Indonesian effort to search for abundant investment and realize its aspiration to be an advanced economy in the OECD, the forum can provide Indonesia a room for maneuvering in striking “bargaining power” related to the Indonesia-EU economic problem.
Therefore, to understand Jokowi’s political decisions related to the OECD, at least, there are two factors behind Indonesia’s rationales. Apart from the political strategy to not being seen as a loyal tail in China’s side in particular, Indonesia’s pursuit of the OECD, too, implies its economic diplomacy, to better accord understanding to European countries, especially those who are vocal against Indonesia’s decision to ban raw mineral resource in export. Indonesia needs a forum that can bridge to correct misperception and misunderstanding about economic measures launched by its government. Under Jokowi, Indonesia obviously put economic matters above all. The raw mineral extraction policy before exporting it, necessarily required to adding the value of the mineral goods that can augment Indonesian state’s earnings.
Thus, by joining the OECD, Jokowi’s desire was indeed to foster a mutual understanding that can ease Indonesia’s objective to mitigate the recent tension becomes intensifying. In addition, Indonesia government also wants to invite as much as OECD countries to invest in the country and conducts further industrial cooperation with their advanced economies counterpart. As remarked by Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita, a Minister of Industry, “Indonesia’s membership in the OECD is also an opportunity for us to expand cooperation in the industrial sector with developed countries in the OECD”.
To conclude, BRICS is significant for Jokowi in keeping stay beside China. In other words, wherever China goes to, Indonesia will be there. On the other hand, the OECD is a matter for Indonesia since it is one way to ease tension with European countries mainly due to various economic policy controversies taken by the Jokowi government.