Biden meets with Indonesia president ahead of Xi summit

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Leaders from the United States and Indonesia held discussions on Monday that will set the stage for U.S. President Joe Biden’s first in person meeting in a year with Chinese leader Xi Jinping later this week.

Biden greeted Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the White House as the two leaders prepare for a Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, where Washington hopes to reduce friction with Beijing. Biden is due to meet Xi on Wednesday.

The United States and Indonesia agreed to new cooperation in defense areas including cybersecurity, space, combined exercises and nuclear threats, the White House said. On climate, they agreed on efforts to support the electrical grid and improve air quality.

Reuters reported on Sunday that the two countries are working to advance a potential minerals partnership focused on the electric vehicle (EV) battery metal nickel, citing three people with direct knowledge of the conversations.

But the Biden administration is still concerned about environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards in Indonesia and is examining how such a deal might work.

Biden and Jokowi, as the Indonesian president is popularly known, agreed to form a work plan towards the establishment of a trade agreement on critical minerals, after which Indonesia will supply minerals for U.S. electric vehicle batteries, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a statement after the meeting.

Retno said both sides also agreed to immediately implement the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), a $20 billion funding pledged by the U.S. and other G7 countries last year to help Indonesia clean up its energy sector.

Indonesia also called for the renewal of the Generalized System of Preferences, Retno said, referring to a U.S. trade facility that Indonesian exports had benefited from before it expired at the end of 2020.


Jokowi pressed Biden on steps to end Israel’s war with Hamas.

“Indonesia appeals to the U.S. to do more to stop the atrocities in Gaza. Ceasefire is a must for the sake of humanity,” Widodo said in the Oval Office at the start of talks with the U.S. president.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, is the largest Muslim-majority nation. Many Muslims have been outraged by Biden’s support for Israel after Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostages on Oct. 7, according to Israeli officials. Palestinian officials have said Israeli strikes have killed more than 11,000 Gaza residents.

“The president will look to ask Indonesia to a play a larger role and to assist us,” in the Middle East, a U.S. official said, without elaborating on what such an expanded role might entail.

Like several of its neighbors in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is economically intertwined with China as it navigates territorial disputes with its larger neighbor and wants to avoid getting caught in the middle by hostile Washington-Beijing relations.

Jakarta and Washington formally upgraded relations to the highest diplomatic tier as part of the leaders’ meeting.

The two leaders were expected to discuss Indonesia’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in Myanmar, where the military took control in a 2021 coup and has been engaged in clashes with rebel alliances, one of the officials said.

“It’s going to be time soon for us to think about what our next steps are together to deal with a situation that is untenable,” the person said.

Jokowi, first elected in 2014, will leave office next year after serving the maximum two terms.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland; additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Ananda Teresia in Jakarta; Editing by Michael Perry, Grant McCool and Ed Osmond)