IO – During a fleeting one day visit to Indonesia Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke in front of the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) last Monday at Le Meridien Hotel. Mr Rutte as well as being the second youngest prime minister in Dutch history and the first prime minister from the Dutch liberal party in 92 years said that Indonesia’s biggest asset is her people. He praised Indonesia’s ability to keep such a diverse nation united and to carry out the logistics for an election for almost 250 million people successfully.
With his youthful air and casual manner, the Prime Minister endeared himself with Indonesian millennials attending his talk as he explained that his father had worked in Indonesia until the 1960s and that in his home there was frequently the scent of Indonesian cooking. Mr Rutte grew up in the most Indies of Dutch cities namely The Hague. “In my home,” he disclosed, “there was also always a palpable longing for Indonesia.”
During the talk FPCI chairman and former Indonesian ambassador to the US, Dino Patti Djalil alluded to Indonesia’s growing perception of Western nations becoming increasingly disoriented and incoherent in their message in the face of China’s rising world dominance and President Trump’s often incomprehensible policy decisions. Mr Rutte responded by noting that however different Indonesia and the Netherlands may be, they do share certain important principles and one of these is that both countries share the same outlook of multilateralism, namely a system of international cooperation with a rules-based order which is presently under pressure from powerful international players such as Russia, China and the United States under President Trump’s administration whose actions frequently undermine such multilateralism.
He said that at present the world is at risk of entering an era of the strong man who organizes things as he sees fit without taking into consideration the rights and welfare of other states. This is reflected in figures such as President Putin in Russia, President Trump in the United States and President Xi Jinping in China. Mr Rutte believes however, that it is a system that will ultimately not work because we live in an inter-connected world. China for example needs to work together with other countries in areas such as international property rights and insurance rights so that their own economy can grow in a sustainable way. When China says that it did not make the international rules that now apply and that it wants to sit at the table to be included in rule making it should have that right to participate however, this does not mean that China should simply be allowed to create its own alternative rules.
The Prime Minister explained that it is not right for big nations to simply do as they please in making their own rules whereas a rules-based order is only applied to small and medium sized states. He stressed that, “Powerful nations such as China, the United States and Russia will not be able to survive either politically or economically without working with other countries in matters of trade, people, science and technology etc. Trade imbalances have many causes.”
On the other hand, the Prime Minister does not think that President Trump is wrong to criticizes China for not opening its intellectual property and insurance sectors or when he criticizes international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organizations which do in fact need to be over-hauled and have constructive changes made to them. Rutte stated that we should use Mr Trumps criticism to make such changes to these international organizations. However, creating a trade war as President Trump is doing will not work because the world requires inter-connectivity in order to survive.
Indonesia is promoting the same approach of multilateral and a rules-based world order through ASEAN. A multilateral outlook reduces mistrust and promotes international cooperation. Currently, the EU and ASEAN work together on issues regarding human rights, research and technology. Prime Minister Rutte proposed that as a next step the European Union become a strategic partner of ASEAN and with this purpose in mind he is looking forward to attending the ASEAN regional summit in Hanoi where he will be promoting such a partnership.
Mr Rutte who is the second longest serving prime minister of the European Union after Angela Merkel, is on a tour to several countries to advance this multilateral outlook and to try create a more united international front to deal with the current move in the direction away from international cooperation and a rules-based world order. After Indonesia he is headed to Australia to continue speaking about a number of the points made in Indonesia. Australian ambassador to Indonesia, Gary Quinlan praised Prime Minister Rutte for his relaxed and articulate manner in putting across the importance of creating a fairer and more inclusive world order promoting international cooperation rather than only dominance through power. (Tamalia Alisjahbana)