Speech by Mark Rutte at a conference on economic cooperation in Indonesia

Speech by the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, at a conference on economic cooperation between the Netherlands and Indonesia, Jakarta.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

While preparing for this visit, I read an interview held last year with representatives of Indonesian and Dutch businesses. They were discussing our shared history, the close contact between us, and the companies that have been doing business together for decades. The article was in fact an appeal. An appeal to entrepreneurs to explore new markets and think out of the box.

From raising dairy cattle in the Indonesian countryside to growing orchids and selling Dutch croquettes! It even mentioned the arrival, in Jakarta, of FEBO, a well-known Dutch chain of snack bars. And it called for more exports of Dutch cheese, which I hear you like to sprinkle on your poffertjes over here! It was news to me that you eat poffertjes in Indonesia, too.

But this appeal is a highly relevant one, of course. We need to keep investing in each other and keep innovating.

That’s why it’s so good to be here. And it’s about time. The last time a Dutch prime minister visited Indonesia was in 2006, and we all know how important it is to meet face-to-face now and again. So I’m glad that many members of the Dutch government have visited recently. And that I was able to make this trip, together with the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen and the Minister for Agriculture, Sharon Dijksma. This helps us maintain and consolidate our close political, cultural and economic relations. With our sights set firmly on the future.

It’s ‘version 2.0’ of our relationship, to quote the Indonesian ambassador to the Netherlands, Mrs Retno Marsudi. And it’s important to look forward, because the world is changing, and Indonesia more than most. Your country is booming in many ways. It’s as if the global financial crisis doesn’t exist here. For years, Indonesia has been achieving annual growth of around six per cent. Figures we in Europe can only dream of.

Poverty is declining, and we now see an expanding middle class that is swelling the ranks of consumers with purchasing power. These changes are reflected in Indonesia’s rising prominence on the world stage. It is an active and significant player in the G20, the UN and, above all, ASEAN. And the end is not yet in sight.

Some experts believe that by 2030 Indonesia could be the world’s seventh-biggest economy. In the Netherlands we are watching this progress with admiration. And we hope we can use our knowledge and skills to contribute to Indonesia’s ongoing development.

Indonesia’s investment climate does present challenges. But it has a plan of action to attract foreign direct investment. The Netherlands is willing and able to help in this area. And our long-standing trade relations will stand us in good stead. The Netherlands and Indonesia can skip the introductions. Frisian Flag, which is here today, has been based in Jakarta since 1922. So it’s almost time for a centennial party! The company doesn’t simply make high-quality dairy products that are popular with Indonesian consumers. For many decades it has also been providing jobs and passing down valuable expertise about dairy technologies. In all, there are some 150 Dutch companies with branches in Indonesia. A big delegation is present today.

I am here with more than a hundred companies, the biggest trade mission to Indonesia ever. That certainly says something about our ambitions for this visit. Our two countries enjoy outstanding trade relations. We are already Indonesia’s biggest European investor, and its second-biggest European trading partner. Last year, Dutch imports from Indonesia were worth 2.8 billion euros and exports to Indonesia 628 million euros. We are Indonesia’s main export destination in Europe. And the port of Rotterdam and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport are Indonesia’s gateway to the rest of Europe.

But, of course, we can do even better. Fortunately, other Dutch companies are also discovering the Indonesian market. Last year, trade between our countries rose by no less than 18 per cent, defying all current trends. Many of those interested companies are here with us today. They mostly come from sectors in which the Netherlands excels. Like agri-food and horticulture, water, life sciences and health, and ports and logistics.

Of course, we want to maintain and consolidate our leading position in these sectors. Our watchwords are knowledge, innovation and collaboration. Because sharing knowledge and learning from others is the only way to move forward. That’s another reason why economic missions like this are so important. Take horticulture. The world’s population is growing and with it the importance of sustainable horticulture. The Netherlands is a pioneer in developing crops that are less dependent on the weather and require less pesticide. We’re keen to share our expertise with Indonesia. And we want to learn about Indonesia’s own experiences. A good example is the partnership between research institutes in Bandung and Wageningen, which is aimed at enhancing horticultural production.

We’re also supporting each other in the agri-food sector. A training programme has been set up to help Indonesian fish producers understand EU safety standards and regulations. That will help them enter the European market. So the Netherlands can be an important bridge to the European market in the same way that Indonesia can be a bridge to the ASEAN market.

Our collaboration in the area of water is particularly important, and has been for years. The benefits cut both ways. The Netherlands is closely involved in helping to protect Jakarta against flooding. And in the process, we’re learning a lot about how to deal with flood risks we may face in the future. This kind of cooperation can produce fantastic innovations. Only last week, the Dutch-Indonesian water filter company Nazava received a prestigious Tech Award in Silicon Valley. By producing user-friendly household water filters that don’t require gas, wood or electricity, this technology has given 75,000 people access to healthy drinking water. But Nazava’s ambitions don’t stop there. By 2016, the company wants to reach one million users.

Tomorrow I will be visiting Jakarta’s coastal region together with the Minister of Public Works and the Deputy Governor. Engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV is involved in expanding Jakarta’s port area. And late last year, dredging firm Van Oord won a contract to deepen the port and reclaim land for a new port terminal. CEO Pieter van Oord described the project as pooling Indonesia’s economic power and Van Oord’s marine engineering expertise.

Pooling resources. That’s what it’s all about. We should follow this example. Not only when it comes to port development, but in all kinds of sectors. That should be our focus in the coming days.

What are the Netherlands’ and Indonesia’s strong points? And how can we best support each other? Let’s talk about our expectations, about taking down barriers and about seizing opportunities. Above all, let’s establish new contacts and pay attention to our existing relationships.

That is something we’re doing today, of course – in our sessions on five key sectors: agri-food, horticulture, water, life sciences and health, and logistics.

Let’s think big. Let’s think out of the box. To version 2.0 of our relationship! To Dutch cheese and croquettes, and hopefully some modern Indonesian delicacies, too! But with a Dutch twist, like Spekkoek Kentang and Pisang Goreng Keju.

Terima kasih!