Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Monday his country was willing to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal after talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.
The support of the Southeast Asian country comes as a welcome break for the U.S.-backed deal, which seeks to regulate trade between the U.S. and 11 other countries.
"We are the largest economy in Southeast Asia," Widodo reportedly said through a translator. "And Indonesia intends to join the TPP."
Speaking at the event, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said Indonesia’s government agencies will have to reduce red tape, address barriers such as packaging requirements and eliminate import and export restrictions, as part of the trade deal.
The TPP trade deal was signed earlier this month after seven years of negotiations. The massive agreement, which covers 40 percent of the world’s economy, will allow goods and services to be exchanged more easily -- but not entirely freely -- across the national borders of the 12 Pacific Rim countries involved.
The treaty, which is yet to be ratified by the member countries, was met with a lukewarm industry reaction as some felt the U.S. stood to be the biggest gainer from the deal. New Zealand's Fonterra, the world's biggest dairy exporter, reportedly said the deal fell "far short" of its original ambition to eliminate all tariffs, blaming "entrenched" U.S. protectionism.
Elsewhere in Asia, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, the country's apex industry body, said in a statement Monday that the trade deal would impact the country’s exports negatively.
A 2012 estimate by the Washington, D.C.-based Peterson Institute for International Economics put the income gains from the trade agreement at $295 billion, including $78 billion in the U.S., thanks to increased exports.
During his visit to the White House -- the first by an Indonesian president in a decade -- Widodo finalized more than $20 billion worth of deals, including investments from Coca-Cola Co. and General Electric Co., according to reports.
Widodo, who arrived in Washington on Sunday, announced Monday that he will cut short his trip and fly back on Tuesday evening due to a haze crisis in his country.
"The president will return a day earlier and will not be going to the west coast of the U.S.," Indonesian Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung reportedly said.