Jakarta (ANTARA) - Indonesian Trade Minister Muhammad Lutfi has discussed cooperation in the supply and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines with the United States (US) during a working visit, according to a press statement that ANTARA received here on Thursday.

He has convinced several American parties that the supply and distribution of vaccines is key to Indonesia's economic recovery, Lutfi said at the Indonesia-United States Trade and Investment Dialogue.

"Ensuring the availability and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is a priority for the Indonesian government in handling this pandemic. The availability and distribution of vaccines will accelerate the national vaccination target for 208.2 million people," he said.

Dozens of US businessmen, including representatives from vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, participated in the business forum held at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington D.C.

The Indonesian government needs 426 million vaccine doses to meet its COVID-19 vaccination target by the end of 2021, Lutfi told the forum. Therefore, the government needs to establish cooperation with several parties to be able to handle the pandemic, he said.

In the meantime, the transmission of the Delta variant has led to an exponential increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in the country, he noted.

Besides the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, an mRNA-based vaccine is expected to be a solution for Indonesia to fight the Delta variant, Lutfi said.

The ministry is making a marathon effort to obtain vaccine supplies from the United States, he added.

During his visit, Lutfi also met with managing director of development policy and partnership for World Bank, Mari Elka Pangestu. He was accompanied by Investment Minister and head of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), Bahlil Lahadalia, and CEO of the Indonesia Investment Authority (INA), Ridha Wirakusumah.

Following the meeting, Lutfi said the World Bank has agreed that the key to Indonesia's economic recovery lies in the provision of COVID-19 vaccines. The World Bank has said it will continue to work with Indonesia to handle COVID-19 and develop the nation's health system, he added.

One day before meeting Pangestu, Minister Lutfi had met with the managing director of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Makhtar Diop.

The meeting discussed funding cooperation to increase the supply chain of messenger RNA (mRNA)-based vaccines for Indonesia, Lutfi informed.

He said he emphasized the need for increasing the supply of vaccines based on mRNA technology to treat COVID-19 patients infected with the Delta variant during the meeting.

Related news: US announces shipment of 1.5 mln Moderna doses to Indonesia

"A vaccine developed based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology is a solution against the latest variant of COVID-19. Therefore, Indonesia needs to accelerate the supply of the mRNA-based vaccine," he remarked.

At the end of his working visit to the US, Minister Lutfi met with the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador, Katherine Tai.

During the strategic meeting, USTR reaffirmed its commitment to addressing issues included in the US trade policy agenda, including employment issues or a worker-centered trade policy, the environment, and climate change, as well as WTO reform, Lutfi said.

He and Tai also discussed cooperation in handling COVID-19 and fisheries sector subsidies.

At the end of the meeting, they committed to strengthening cooperation through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), G20 Summit 2021, and cooperation in the implementation of the 18th Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 2021.

The United States is one of Indonesia's main trading partners with bilateral trade between the nations reaching US$27.2 billion in 2020.

Indonesia's exports to the US touched US$18.62 billion last year, while its imports reached US$8.58 billion.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's trade balance against the US recorded a surplus of US$10.04 billion in 2020.

Related news: Indonesia thanks Japan, Australia, US for vaccine assistance

Translator: Sella Panduarsa Gareta, Katria
Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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