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Q&A: Indonesia’s EV Success Now Hinges on U.S. & EU. Will Indonesia Be Forced to Pull Away From China?

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Indonesian President Joko Widodo during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on November 13, 2023. SAUL LOEB / AFP

In November last year, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo met with United States President Joe Biden to talk trade and investment. At the very top of Jokowi’s agenda was to find a way to expand markets for Indonesian nickel-based EV batteries. Jokowi had hoped to secure a limited free trade agreement (FTA) for its nickel, which would allow it to qualify for benefits under Washington’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and help it compete in the US market. 

But, the IRA cripples any product that has traces of China’s presence, and Indonesia’s nickel has plenty of it. As predicted, Jokowi walked away from that visit with nothing. Indonesia’s EV dream has hit another roadblock and Jokowi’s time in the office is running out.

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