Indonesia’s Ambitions for American EVs Hindered in the Slow Lane

Indonesia’s Ambition to Become an EV Manufacturing Hub

Indonesia’s Ambition to Become an EV Manufacturing Hub

The Indonesian President’s Ambition

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has set his sights on making Indonesia the Asian hub for manufacturing electric vehicles (EV) by leveraging the country’s vast nickel resources. In his pursuit of this goal, he has been actively courting Tesla, offering various incentives to the U.S. car maker, including tax breaks and nickel mining concessions.

The Need for a Free Trade Agreement

In order for Indonesian materials to qualify for the generous EV subsidies under the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Widodo now seeks a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States. To this end, Indonesia has requested talks with Washington for a limited trade deal that covers EV battery inputs such as nickel and cobalt.

A Commitment to Develop a Critical Minerals Action Plan

Following a bilateral meeting, the United States has expressed a commitment “to develop a critical minerals action plan” with Indonesia. This plan will lay the foundation for future negotiations on a critical minerals agreement. The joint statement also highlighted the importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards in the action plan.

The Importance of ESG Standards

Indonesia has become a major player in the global nickel production sector, accounting for over half of the world’s production. With its growing significance in the battery metals supply chain, the country’s ESG credentials have come under scrutiny. Environmental and charity groups have raised concerns about the potential impact on forests, Indigenous people, and workers. The joint statement emphasized the importance of strong worker and environmental protections in the mining sector to prevent exploitation and promote sustainability.

Challenges in Cleaning Up Indonesia’s Act

While Indonesia is taking steps to improve its governance of the nickel sector, there are challenges in addressing certain ESG issues. The country’s heavy reliance on a coal-fired power system and certain processing routes used for low-grade ore contribute to a significant carbon footprint in its nickel production.

The Hurdle of Chinese Dominance

Another major challenge for Indonesia is the dominant presence of Chinese companies in its nickel production sector. The United States has expressed its commitment to developing its own critical mineral supply chain, aiming to reduce China’s domination in this area. This poses a problem for Indonesia as a limited trade agreement on critical minerals could exclude Chinese material streams.

Other Countries Capitalizing on EV Subsidies

While Indonesia faces slow progress in its talks with the United States, other countries are moving quickly to capitalize on the clean energy subsidies provided under the IRA. Global commodities trader Trafigura recently signed an investment agreement with Korea Zinc to build a nickel refinery in South Korea. South Korea, benefiting from its existing FTA with the United States, has an advantage in qualifying for IRA subsidies. However, there are concerns about potential overlap with Chinese companies in South Korea’s EV battery chain.

The Challenges Ahead

Indonesia’s ambition to become a green manufacturing hub for EVs is not without its challenges. While efforts to improve ESG credentials are important, addressing issues related to China’s dominance and reducing carbon footprint will be critical for success. As the country seeks to produce EVs for the U.S. market, it must navigate these hurdles strategically.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a columnist for Reuters.

Opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Reuters News, which, under the Trust Principles, is committed to integrity, independence, and freedom from bias.

About the Author

John Doe is a senior metals columnist who has extensive experience covering industrial metals markets. He is the author of ‘Siberian Dreams’ and has been a leading voice in the commodities industry for many years.

Read More of this Story at – 2023-11-21 00:00:00

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