Indonesia president defends nickel export curbs after EU complaint at WTO

FILE PHOTO: Indonesia's President Joko Widodo attends an ASEAN leaders summit with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in Bangkok, Thailand November 3, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo

JAKARTA (Reuters) - President Joko Widodo warned on Thursday that there would be no going back on his policy to curb exports of nickel ore and other minerals, and Indonesia would defend itself against a complaint lodged with the World Trade Organisation by the European Union.

In September, resource-rich Indonesia announced it would stop nickel ore exports from Jan.1, two years earlier than initially indicated, a decision set to disrupt global supply.

“When we’re sued, we face it. The most important thing is we don’t turn, we don’t go back,” Widodo said in a statement released by the Cabinet Secretariat.

Widodo repeated his longstanding stance that Southeast Asia’s largest economy should be exporting less raw materials and more processed goods to create more added value and jobs at home.

Indonesia - the world’s biggest nickel ore producer - has become a major exporter of stainless steel since Widodo adopted a stricter export policy on nickel ore. It has also seen a surge in foreign investment in smelting, particularly from China.

The European Union lodged its complaint last month over Indonesia’s curbs on exporting nickel and other raw materials to the benefit of its own smelting and stainless steel industries.

“For our national interest, whatever is being protested by other countries we will face. We don’t have any doubt,” Widodo said.

The president is now pushing for the development of electric vehicles and battery production facilities that would use its nickel ore supply.

Reporting by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Ed Davies & Simon Cameron-Moore