This week’s US-Asean Summit offers Washington the chance to make its long-discussed “pivot to Asia” a reality, especially as the bloc – with its combined population of 667 million and an aggregate gross domestic product of US$3 trillion – is set to become the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2030. Washington and its allies often mention their desire for a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, but for all the talk, the essence of this strategy – namely a strong trade and investment framework between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – has yet to fully materialise. Take Indonesia for instance. In addition to being a crucial producer of commodities such as coal and palm oil, the country also holds nearly one-quarter of the world’s nickel reserves – necessary for assembling electric vehicles – making it a key contributor to the global green-energy transition. With its US$1 trillion economy and 278 million people, it has a huge domestic market and youthful talent pool. Given all this, there can be little doubt that there will be no “Asian Century” without Indonesia. And yet, the country’s US$30 billion in bilateral trade with the US is 38 per cent of its two-way trade with China. Similarly, Chinese foreign direct investment in Indonesia was US$904.34 million in 2020 – 47.55 per cent higher than FDI from the US, according to Bank Indonesia figures. While the reality is, of course, more nuanced, China’s growing influence in Southeast Asia rests on the fact that it appears to support, rather than dictate, the economic aspirations of developing countries in the region. Opportunities to unlock US military and security cooperation with Indonesia and other Asean countries is greatly valued, but there are so many more opportunities that can be unlocked. Indonesia’s government under President Joko Widodo has proven itself to be one of the most business-friendly in the region. Jokowi, as he is popularly known, has worked tirelessly to remove barriers to investment. Despite having been affected like all countries by the coronavirus pandemic , Indonesia has forged ahead with economic priorities such as promoting digitalisation, downstreaming commodity production, transitioning to a green economy and meeting its net-zero emissions pledge by 2060. Does US-Indonesia strategic dialogue really herald a new era? But none of these will come cheap, especially for a developing country like Indonesia. The green-energy transition alone will cost some US$50 billion, according to Jokowi, who has consistently said that developed countries must support the process. Jakarta is not seeking handouts, however. It wants investment and opportunities. Indonesia and the US are both huge markets, whose businesses ought to be able to work together more easily. Stronger economic ties would not only make America’s presence in the region more concrete, it would also enable Indonesia and developing countries like it to successfully meet their global responsibilities. More engagement required Trade and investment need to be front and centre of any discussions on US-Asean cooperation because as things stand, Washington’s much-vaunted “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework” remains poorly understood. Engagement must also be constant and consistent. The US cannot expect to get ahead in Asean, or anywhere else for that matter, if it is absent from regional and international forums. This year, Indonesia holds the presidency of the G20 , the global forum whose member economies make up 85 per cent of the world’s GDP and two-thirds of its population. Threats to boycott November’s G20 summit in Bali amid the war in Ukraine are unhelpful, as this body should not be turned into yet another battleground for great power rivalry. US support for Ukraine does not, and should not, preclude it from fully participating in the G20 – or from ramping up its engagement with Indonesia and Asean No sane person would ignore or excuse the tragedy that is unfolding in Europe. Indonesia has been against the Russian invasion from the outset – voting to condemn it at the UN General Assembly – and Jokowi has invited his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to the Bali summit. But Indonesia also strongly believes that it is self-defeating to break up forums like the G20, and is against disrupting its goal of building out much-needed global financial architecture. Most countries are currently grappling with inflation and shortages, suggesting that another global socio-economic crisis is looming. The world’s post-pandemic recovery is looking fragile. Without addressing the global economic downturn, peace cannot be assured. All forums for communication must be kept open, especially in times of distrust. Blinken set to make Indo-Pacific speech in Indonesia amid Asean push As head of B20 Indonesia, I strongly believe that US support for Ukraine does not, and should not, preclude it from fully participating in the G20 – or from ramping up its engagement with Indonesia and Asean. I hope to use the platform my position has provided me to articulate not only what Indonesia can offer the world, but also contribute to strengthening these crucial relationships. For now, America’s long-delayed pivot to Asia must begin with concrete steps taken at this week’s summit. Arsjad Rasjid is the Chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN), an organisation authorised by the Indonesian constitution to promote trade and investment and represent all Indonesian businesses, state-owned or private. In 2022, KADIN will serve as host of the “B20”, the G20’s official global business dialogue.