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U.S., China, Indonesia’s Nickel Gridlock: A Perspective From Below

Indonesia's Coordinating Ministry for Maritime and Investments Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan (R) speaks during the inauguration of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed train named 'Whoosh' at Halim station in Jakarta on October 2, 2023. Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

“Without Indonesia’s nickel, [electric vehicles] have no future in America,” declared Indonesia’s coordinating minister of maritime and investment affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan in Foreign Policy last month. A bold statement from Indonesia’s top minister.

He blasted Washington’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for “effectively barring entry of the critical supplies that U.S. manufacturers need” and warned that it could “lock the United States out of the EV market entirely.” He accused the IRA of being motivated by sentiments against Beijing. He also made a threat that Indonesia’s nickel would be exported somewhere, should it be forced to choose between China and the United States.

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