September 12, 2018 / 10:33 AM / 10 months ago

Indonesia's 'Avengers' president stands ready to defeat trade wars

HANOI (Reuters) - The logic behind the current round of global trade wars was flawed, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Wednesday, quipping that he was part of a team of superheroes, “The Avengers”, that aims to defeat the ideas stoking such conflict.

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo speaks at the plenary session of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN at the Convention Center in Hanoi, Vietnam, September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Kham

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Hanoi, Widodo said trade wars between countries only led the world’s population towards “infinity wars”, referring to a blockbuster film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.

“Not since the Great Depression of the 1930s have trade wars erupted with the intensity that they have today,” said Widodo, speaking from a podium before the leaders of countries including China, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“But rest assured, myself and my fellow Avengers stand ready to prevent Thanos from wiping out half the world’s population,” he added, to laughter and applause from the audience.

Thanos is the villain of the 2018 film “Avengers: Infinity War” who wiped out half of all life in a fictitious universe to solve the problem of limited resources for a growing population.

But the assumption of a finite amount of resources in the world was wrong, Widodo said, arguing that technology had allowed people to stretch resources.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s focus on trade deficits has prompted him to declare trade wars on some countries, such as the imposition of tariffs of 25 percent on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, and threaten to widen his list of targets.

China has reciprocated by raising tariffs on some U.S. goods.

Analysts say Indonesia is not high on the list of countries that would be greatly affected by a U.S. trade war with China.

On the other hand, Vietnam, which is hosting the World Economic Forum, is seen as more vulnerable, due to its bigger role in the production chain in Chinese export products.

Indirectly, global trade tension has helped tame investor appetite for riskier assets and prompted outflows from emerging markets such as Indonesia and Vietnam.

Widodo did not single out the United States or any other any country as being the “Thanos” in the plot.

“Thanos is not any individual person, sorry to disappoint you,” Widodo said.

“Thanos is inside all of us. Thanos is the misguided belief that in order for us to succeed, others must surrender. He is the misperception that the rise of some must necessarily mean the decline of others.”

Reporting by James Pearson in HANOI, and Kanupriya Kapoor and Gayatri Suroyo in JAKARTA; Editing by Ed Davies and Clarence Fernandez

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