On October 9, 2017, at the headquarters of the Italian-ASEAN Association, the book “Italy and Indonesia: islands, peninsulas, archipelagos” (ed. AREL – il Mulino), by Professor Orlandi, has been presented in front of the Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and companies and representatives of Italian institutions and universities. The presentation was preceded by a networking lunch and a private meeting between the Minister and the associated companies, during which each company brought to the attention of the Indonesian Government its concerns and ambitions in the area. Ambassador Pipan introduced and moderated the discussion panel, which also included Vincenzo De Luca, DG at the Italian MFA for the Promotion of the Country System. Marsudi, the first woman to play such a role in Indonesia, was rewarded by the United Nations as an Agent of Change for General Equality and Women Empowerment and was active in resolving the Rohingya crisis with trips to Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Minister also made more than 150 meetings during the last session of the United Nations General Assembly to support Indonesia’s candidacy as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for 2018-19.
The key note speech began with the consideration that when talking about Asia, ASEAN, an area of 640 million people, with growth rates of 5%, is often forgotten. The president of Indonesia, ASEAN’s founding country, Joko Widodo, is engaging in making the economy of the largest ASEAN countries more competitive and open. Indonesia has 260 million inhabitants and has improved in the ease of doing business ranking, from 106 ° to 91 °, and also got an upgrade of the S & P judgment on the country, from BBB-, vulnerable, to BB +, capable of to repay the debt. Priority in economic policy has been placed on the creation of infrastructures, given the particular archipelago conformation. President Widodo, in order to make a change of mindset, in addition to approving 16 reform packages, aimed in particular at relieving bureaucratic viscosity, decided to begin the infrastructure upgrade from the east of the country.
Indonesia is a politically stable country that makes pluralism a fundamental value. Moreover, the entire ASEAN area can be considered comparatively more stable than other developing regions. The Minister proudly reported that no one 50 years ago would have betrayed that ASEAN countries would be able to make the harmony of diversity a motor of growth and stability. In this regard, the ASEAN way has proved to be a successful practice. It is evident that the region is also faced with challenges such as the peaceful and fruitful coexistence in the South China Sea and the crisis of the Rohingya. But the main goal to be achieved through the ASEAN way is to reduce the disparities between its member countries so that the benefits of this ambitious integration project can be tangible for citizens. In this sense, the European Union is a clear example of success.
Finally, Marsudi hoped that relations with Italy, export hubs to the EU, and a country with obvious affinities with Indonesia could be further strengthened. The Minister closed his speech inviting Italian companies to visit Indonesia and ASEAN, celebrating our creative economy (tourism, food, design and fashion) and hoping that an ambitious free trade agreement with the EU could soon be concluded.