Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for sparing your time to be with us, Kompas TV. I am Frisca. Really great to see you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. So nice to be with you.
QUESTION: And let me start with 72 years of strong Indonesia and U.S. diplomatic ties. So how to reaffirm the strong diplomatic ties between two countries, especially about the Indonesia Strategic Partnership and the importance of the free and open Indo-Pacific region?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, that’s exactly what we’re doing. President Biden is committed to this partnership. It’s a strategic partnership, and it’s working on so many different levels. It’s working bilaterally, the things we’re doing directly together that I think will improve the lives of people in both countries; regionally where Indonesia plays such an important role, including in ASEAN; and even globally where taking on the leadership of the G20, the 20 largest economies in the world, Indonesia is going to be playing a very, very important role next year.
And for us, reaffirming these ties that are already, very, very strong includes making sure that at every level, starting with our President, we’re connected; we’re working together. The President had – the two presidents – President Jokowi, President Biden – had a very good and long conversation when they were together at the Glasgow COP26 meetings. In fact, the meeting was scheduled to go for half an hour; it went twice that long because there was so much to talk about. And I think that’s evidence of our commitment to the relationship.
QUESTION: And specifically about your meeting with President Joko Widodo and other senior officials, so how do you assess the strategic role that Indonesia could take part of?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first of all, I was really grateful for the time that President Jokowi gave me yesterday when I arrived and then all of the work that we’ve done since then with Minister Retno, with Minister Luhut, and other colleagues and friends. And I think we talked about the issues that are having an impact on the lives of people in both of our countries and the work that we can do together on COVID-19 and combatting that and together building an even stronger system so that in the future we can deal with pandemics even more effectively. Climate and dealing together with the challenge that it presents but also the opportunity to create good, new jobs with green technology. And infrastructure and investment and the economic ties between our countries, which we think can and should grow even stronger.
So we talked about all of that, and what we call the digital economy. So much of our economy now is shaped by the digital world and making sure that people in both of our countries have the skills that they need to really do well in that economy.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, regarding to the tensions in the South China Sea, what are the key concerns from the U.S. and how could Indonesia and the U.S. commit to do on this issue?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We talk about a free and open Indo-Pacific, but what does that mean? It means that for individuals, they are free to shape their own destinies, to make their voices heard, to live in free and open societies. For countries, it means the freedom to choose their own path and to choose their own partners. And regionally, it means a region where countries are – and the relationship between them is defined by collaboration and cooperation, not coercion. And so that’s the kind of Indo-Pacific that I think not only do we want to see, but people throughout the region want to see, including in Indonesia. And so that’s what we’re looking for and what we’re working toward.
QUESTION: And since – the U.S.-China trade war has become a concern to global communities for many years, so in a year of President Biden administration, how is the relation between two countries? And does the U.S. see that China’s progress in economy and technology as a threat?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Trade, investment are good, including with China, for all of us – provided it’s fair, that it’s on a level playing field, that everyone is playing by the same rules. So that’s what we care about, that’s what concerns us. If countries are not playing by the same rules, well, it’s important that we do something about that together.
But we want to see more trade; we want to see more investment across the board. When it comes to investment, for example on things like infrastructure, we’d like to make sure that it’s what we would call a race to the top, not a race to the bottom – to make sure that investment is done transparently, openly, without corruption; building things to the highest quality, making sure the environment is protected, that workers are protected. If that happens, whether that investment is coming from China, from us, from anyone else, it’s a good thing.
QUESTION: Okay. Talking about pandemic, as far as we know, that the U.S. has been very supportive and committed in providing over 44.7 million doses of vaccines to Indonesia via COVAX and bilaterally. However, the inequity of supply remains – not only Indonesia, but other countries, too. So is there any extra thing that U.S. will act to help in reaching the deficit?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes, you’re right, there are inequities. And it’s not only wrong morally, it’s also a real problem for everyone, because no one is safe until everyone is safe. And we’ve just seen that again with the emergence of the omicron variant. And what happens is if the virus continues to be alive somewhere, it may start to mutate into new variants, and then those variants could come back and bite even countries that have been fully vaccinated if the new variants defeat the vaccine.
So we have a strong interest in this. The United States has committed to donate between now and the rest of next year 1.2 billion doses of safe and effective vaccines around the world. And as you said, we’re doing it through COVAX to make sure that it’s distributed equitably to the countries who need it, and not based on politics. And we do it with no strings attached. We don’t ask for anything in return. That’s very, very important, too.
But here is the other challenge. It’s not simply enough to produce more vaccines. And by the way, we’d like to see production in other countries, including, for example, in Indonesia. But it’s not enough to simply produce more vaccines; we also have to make sure that the vaccines actually get into arms. And there are challenges there, too. There are logistical challenges; there are distribution challenges. We’re working very hard to help solve those problems.
QUESTION: Okay. Last question for me: 2022 is just a step ahead, and there will be a big moment for Indonesia as the chairman of G20.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes.
QUESTION: How the U.S. supporting Indonesia’s chairmanship of the G20?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We talked a lot about that with President Jokowi, with Minister Retno, with other colleagues. And we are looking very much forward to Indonesia’s chairmanship of the G20, and the very important work that I know it wants to carry forward, including on things like health security, on climate, on the digital economy, on economic transformation. And we intend to be the strongest possible partners for Indonesia in that effort. It’s a tremendous responsibility, but we’re also tremendously encouraged that Indonesia is taking it on. It’s an important moment for the world, and I think Indonesia can make a very big difference leading the G20 over the next year.
QUESTION: The U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. Thank you so much for being with us.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Good to be with you.