Roles of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Implementing Maritime Economic Diplomacy

On February 20, 2017, Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) signed Presidential Regulation no. 16 on the “Indonesian Ocean Policy (IOP)”. The document embodies a major narrative to develop Indonesia from its ocean. It is founded upon 6 principles, 7 policy pillars and 76 strategic policies ranging from marine and human resources strategy, maritime security policies, ocean governance matters, maritime economy paths and maritime diplomacy strategies. It is an integrated, comprehensive and coherent document that contains strategic vision, measurable policy outcomes and a concrete timeline.

It is interesting that Indonesia finally has a comprehensive documentt to steer all government agencies towards a single, unified direction: to realise the Global Maritime Fulcrum vision of President Jokowi to be a strong maritime nation. Interesting too, apparently in addition to domestic use, the IOP document also attracted the attention of the international community. Many seen the IOP document as a strategic document that projects Indonesia’s interest and adaptive strategy to adapt to and counteract strategies of various key players in the region. As Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia and the largest country in the region, it is crucial to observe and examine how this major narrative and strategic document will interact with and affect Indonesian and regional geopolitics.

Furthermore, related to our goal and objective to discuss on maritime economic diplomacy, we have to understand what the objective of the maritime economic development and what the meaning of maritime diplomacy as mentioned in the IOP document. From the pillars of IOP, it is understood that the objective of the policy of maritime economy is to make the maritime sector as a basis for economic development. The potential of Indonesia’s maritime economy does not only exist in waters under sovereignty of Indonesia but also in the area under national jurisdiction and international waters which can be managed based on international waters.

While maritime diplomacy is the implementation of foreign policy to optimize the maritime potentials in fulfilling the national interest in accordance with national policies and international law. Maritime diplomacy is not only involve to the maritime aspects at bilateral, regional and global level, but also related to the utilization of maritime assets, civilian and military, to fulfill national interest in accordance with national law and international laws.

From the definition as mentioned above, the maritime economic diplomacy of Indonesia can be interpreted as efforts to fight for the goals of national economic development based on the maritime sector. Maritime economic diplomacy is conducted through bilateral, regional and global channels by utilizing maritime assets, both civilian and military

The question is who will implement the maritime diplomacy particularly maritime economic diplomacy as stated ini the IOP document?. The question arises because every time we are talking about managing economic and trade issues, there is the view that it is not the domain of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), but become the domain of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and technical ministries such as the Ministry of Commerce.

In fact, based on the law no. 37 of 1990 on foreign relations is clearly stated that the authority to implement foreign relations and foreign policy is under the authority of the president. The President shall transfer the Foreign Relations and the implementation of the Foreign Policy to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Beside that, by looking at the role of diplomacy as an important communication and negotiation tool to defend and fight for the interests of Indonesian maritime in international forum, MOFA has a very important role. The MOFA has a role not only to negotiate Indonesia’s maritime borders with neighboring countries. Beyond that, the MOFA has an important role in implementing maritime economic diplomacy.

The inclusion of maritime diplomacy as one of the pillars of the IOP shows that maritime issues are not a domestic issue but have international dimensions that require international communication and cooperation. For example, in relation to the discussion of norm-making related to fishery areas, it is not a mere technical problem but is closely related to international maritime law.

in this connection, related to the implementation of the IOP, MOFA has the great task and challenge to be the coordinator and integrator of the implementation of international relations. MOFA is not only actively engaged in diplomacy and negotiation, but must begin to play the role of integrator by integrating various ministries/agencies to discuss various maritime management options and integrate objectives.

Therefore, in line with the strategic policy of maritime diplomacy within the IOP, there are several economic maritime policy options that MOFA can do:

  1. As the implementation of the maritime pillar of economic development and maritime diplomacy, MOFA could initiates to strengthen bilateral and regional maritime economic cooperation with countries in the region. The regional units at MOFA and Indonesian representatives in the specific region could start to develop a real program of activities. Program activities are made with a clear narrative and can be implemented in a real way and can be beneficial to the community;
  2. In order to set the same goals and strategies in fighting for Indonesian maritime interests in international forums, MOFA could lead the discussion on international norm-making on ocean affairs by involving all stakeholders. MOFA could ask ministries/agencies to prepare input on technical aspects, while MOFA could prepare diplomacy plans and strategies. Together they can plan a holistic approach and clear guidelines;
  3. Explore the enhancement of maritime cooperation with countries in the region. The assessment is carried out to countries in the region that have already had partnership agreements with Indonesia or by opening a non-traditional market that has not been properly initialed. Cooperation can be implemented in the form of economic, trade and investment cooperation

To conclude,  the IOP is a comprehensive policy comprises goals, policies and plans of action ranging from marine and human resources strategy, maritime security policies, ocean governance matters, maritime economy development and maritime diplomacy strategies. Since it is an integrated, comprehensive and coherent document that contains strategic vision, measurable policy outcomes and a concrete timeline, it is necessary to have close coordination between all stakeholders. The MOFA should not restrict its roles and responsibilitiies only on the specific pillars, But MOFA could take alead to discuss and prepare a guideline of MOFA’s role, particularly on the pillars of maritime economic development and maritime diplomacy,

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