Abbott checks in to the New Asia Club – 11 December, 2014

Home / Views / Abbott checks in to the New Asia Club – 11 December, 2014

It was great to see Tony Abbott at the inauguration of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, back in October 2014.

His presence was more than just a courtesy; it was an important step in strengthening relations between South-east Asia’s two biggest economies –and indeed building a framework for the new Asia.

Jokowi – as the Indonesian press likes to call him –is a new style of leader for Indonesia. He is the first in almost half a century not to come from the nation’s military or political elite; he is progressive, energetic and keen to build Indonesia’s infrastructure and broaden its economic base.

He is also the third leader of a major Asian nation to take power in the past year or so – joining Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took the reins in May, and China’s President Xi Jinping who took office in November last year. Together these three men represent close to three billion people (out of a world population of some seven billion).

Each faces a different challenge: Modi in re-invigorating Indian growth, Xi in overseeing China’s transition from low cost exporter to a consumer led economy, Widodo in building the infrastructure to support Indonesia’s economic growth. All have pledged to reduce corruption.

If they can meet these goals Asia will continue to be the dominant economic region for decades. Current estimates are for China and India (with of course the USA) to be the world’s three biggest economies by 2050 with Japan fourth and Indonesia pushing up to be in the top 20.

Geographically Australia could not be better positioned to share in this growth: We form the apex of the growth triangle– and it is clearly the goal of Abbott, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Trade Minister Andrew Robb to ensure that we are firmly hitched, economically and diplomatically, to all these rising stars. Building personal bridges, as well as institutional ties, is key.