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Over the past two years, protectionism has dominated U.S. trade policy decisions, unsettling American trade partners in the Asia-Pacific region. These countries are unlikely to simply buckle to U.S. demands, instead expanding trade relationships with other states. However, there are signs that the administration could soften its stance and return to more pro-free trade policies. If it does, that could lay the groundwork for a return to bigger economic engagement in the region.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo – better known as Jokowi – has run up against tough political resistance. He is learning the hard way that the country’s cumbersome bureaucracy does not react as quickly as the businesses he has run. But despite some mistakes, he still retains public support due to his focus on economic development and infrastructure. If he can see his ambitious initiatives through and make Indonesia a “Global Maritime Fulcrum,” the country would play a pivotal geopolitical role.
Yang Razali Kassim