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US, Indonesia Hold First Meeting of Joint Commission

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa met Friday at the State Department for the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Indonesia Joint Commission.

Members of the U.S. and Indonesian delegations sat around tables set up in a "U" shape formation at the State Department Friday. Clinton and Natalegawa sat in the center, where they presided over this first meeting.

Clinton called Indonesia a "great bilateral partner" as well as a leader on multiple issues. She said the U.S. and Indonesia have made much progress in the 18 months since their presidents agreed to forge a comprehensive partnership based on shared values and interests.

"We are both diverse societies with traditions of pluralism, tolerance, respect for the rights of women and minorities. We share an abiding interest in a more prosperous Southeast Asia and a more peaceful world. And we applaud the role that Indonesia is playing, not only as an advocate for democracy around the world, but on the environment, on climate change, on so many other critical issues," she said.

In fact, the Joint Commission established working groups to focus on six main issues: democracy, the environment, security, energy, education, and trade and investment.

The U.S. Secretary of State said she is particularly excited about education initiatives. "We will work together to increase the number of Indonesian students studying in the United States and the number of American students studying in Indonesia. We are taking steps that will eventually double our bilateral trade, including a $1 billion dollar credit commitment from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, in partnership with 11 Indonesian banks," she said.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Natalegawa said the phrase "comprehensive partnership" sums up the current relationship between the U.S. and Indonesia, which are two of the largest democracies in the world.

"I am very keen to ensure that on education as well in other areas as well - trade and investment, energy, climate change and environment - we make steady progress and even urgent progress to ensure that we really deliver in making, in giving substance to our comprehensive partnership," he said.

Speaking at the conclusion of the inaugural meeting, Clinton and Natalegawa emphasized the importance of concrete developments. Clinton said she particularly liked Natalegawa's suggestion that the two sides begin a score card so they can closely track the progress of the delegations.

Both diplomats also spoke about their nations' commitments to religious tolerance. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation.

The joint commission is set to meet next in Indonesia in 2011.