WASHINGTON (AP) — Indonesia’s leader has said his country intends to join a sweeping Pacific Rim trade deal involving the United States.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo made the announcement after meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Monday. Indonesia had previously expressed interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership but had not committed.
Widodo’s announcement is a positive sign for the pact that the U.S. negotiated with other countries in Asia and North America. The U.S. business community has complained that economic protectionism makes it difficult to do business in Indonesia.
Obama said he and Widodo also discussed climate change and counterterrorism against groups like the Islamic State. He says they also discussed maritime security cooperation. He was alluding to tensions with China in the South China Sea.
Widodo cut short his visit to the U.S. because of the ongoing haze crisis caused by blazing forest fires in Indonesia. He was due to fly home on Tuesday afternoon, cancelling a planned visit to San Francisco.
The official said Widodo was increasingly worried about the forest fires and their humanitarian impact, and he needed to immediately visit the impacted areas.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly about the president’s schedule.
The fires have spread a thick, smoky haze over Indonesia as well as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.