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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post 34
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RI, US seek win-win so­lu­tion to thorny trade is­sues

  • Haeril Halim, Liza Yosephine and Fe­d­ina S. Sundaryani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Fri, April 21, 2017 | 09:15 am
RI, US seek win-win so­lu­tion to thorny trade is­sues President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (right) and US Vice President Michael R. Pence shake hands before they delivered a joint press conference at State Palace in Jakarta on Thursday. Pence arrived in Indonesia on Wednesday and was scheduled to leave the country on Friday. (Antara/Puspa Perwitasari)

From trade bar­ri­ers to a spat be­tween In­done­sia and United States min­ing gi­ant Freeport McMoRan, Pres­i­dent Joko “Jokowi” Wi­dodo and vis­it­ing US Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence got down to brass tacks in their meet­ing on Thurs­day.

In a one-hour cour­tesy call to Jokowi, Pence had a one-on-one chat over tea with the Pres­i­dent on the ve­randa of the State Palace with no min­is­ters or of­fi­cials in tow.

Pence is the first mem­ber of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion to visit South­east Asia.

“The Pres­i­dent sent me here as a sign of high value the US places on our strate­gic part­ner­ships with In­done­sia,” said Pence.

Pence took the time to clar­ify the in­clu­sion of In­done­sia this month on the list of 16 coun­tries that had con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to the US’ ac­cu­mu­lat­ing trade im­bal­ances.

“Un­der Pres­i­dent Trump’s lead­er­ship, the US seeks a trade re­la­tion­ship that is both free and fair for job cre­ation and eco­nomic growth for both par­ties, as Pres­i­dent Wi­dodo has said so of­ten, ‘we are look­ing for win-win re­la­tion­ships’ and we are con­fi­dent that we can find them,” said Pence.

“We be­lieve we must level the play­ing field, break down bar­ri­ers to en­sure that Amer­i­can ex­porters can fully par­tic­i­pate in the In­done­sian mar­ket, the same free­dom that In­done­sian ex­porters have had in many sec­tors in the US for many years.”

Pence went on to say that the US ex­pected progress for the ob­jec­tives in the com­ing weeks.

In­done­sia is in 15th place on Trump’s trade hit list, with a trade sur­plus of US$13 bil­lion over the US -- In­done­sia’s big­gest ex­port des­ti­na­tion with a 12 per­cent share.

Ap­parel and cloth­ing ac­ces­sories ac­counted for the big­gest share of ex­ports to the US in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Trade Cen­ter’s Trade Map.

In­done­sia’s main im­ports from the US, mean­while, are ma­chin­ery, me­chan­i­cal ap­pli­ances, and power gen­er­a­tion boil­ers.

“Eco­nom­i­cally, Pres­i­dent Trump and I seek to ex­pand the US’ com­mer­cial re­la­tion­ship with In­done­sia. And the Pres­i­dent and I spoke about that very openly to­day and we look for­ward to those dis­cus­sions con­tin­u­ing,” said Pence.

In re­sponse to the US’ de­mand for greater ac­cess, Jokowi said a team would re­solve trade and in­vest­ment is­sues with the US next month. “The so­lu­tion should be based on the win-win prin­ci­ple,” Jokowi said.

The Pres­i­dent also said the US was com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the US-In­done­sia Strate­gic Part­ner­ship sealed in 2011 by fo­cus­ing more on the in­vest­ments of US com­pa­nies in In­done­sia.

Co­or­di­nat­ing Mar­itime Af­fairs Min­is­ter Luhut Pand­jai­tan said the Pres­i­dent had also made an ef­fort to con­vince Pence to ac­cept In­done­sia’s ra­tio­nale to de­mand Freeport di­vest 51 per­cent of its shares in its lo­cal unit that op­er­ated the world’s big­gest gold de­posit.

“The talks be­tween the Pres­i­dent and Pence were pleas­ant. Pence is very sat­is­fied with the Pres­i­dent’s ex­pla­na­tion that In­done­sia de­mands more shares from Freeport,” Luhut said af­ter a meet­ing with Jokowi.

Freeport is In­done­sia’s old­est for­eign in­vestor. Since com­menc­ing op­er­a­tions more than five decades ago, Freeport has been per­ceived by many In­done­sian politi­cians and ac­tivists as a sym­bol of US eco­nomic im­pe­ri­al­ism in In­done­sia.

Pence did not pub­licly men­tion Freeport, but only made a gen­eral state­ment about US com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in In­done­sia.

“Amer­i­can com­pa­nies have been do­ing busi­ness in In­done­sia for years and Amer­i­can prod­ucts and ser­vices con­trib­uted greatly to In­done­sia’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. But, we be­lieve we still have room for sig­nif­i­cant progress.”

The US was In­done­sia’s sev­enth-big­gest in­vestor last year, ac­cord­ing to In­done­sia’s For­eign Min­istry.

In­vest­ment Co­or­di­nat­ing Board (BKPM) chair­man Thomas Lem-bong said talks with his US coun­ter­part next month would seek to reeval­u­ate cur­rent eco­nomic re­la­tions, not­ing that Pence’s visit came at the right time, plac­ing at­ten­tion on new in­dus­tries, es­pe­cially tech­nol­ogy and ser­vices.

Aside from busi­ness is­sues, Pence also took the time to ex­plore ways to strengthen de­fense part­ner­ship to con­front var­i­ous se­cu­rity threats, in­clud­ing ter­ror­ism.

“Sadly, In­done­sia is no stranger to this evil, nor is the US,” he said.

“As the largest Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­try, In­done­sia’s mod­ern Is­lam frankly is an in­spi­ra­tion to the world.”

In terms of re­gional peace, Pence said the US would work with In­done­sia to de­fend the rule­based sys­tem that was the foun­da­tion of South­east Asia’s peace and pros­per­ity. “The US will up­hold the fun­da­men­tal free­doms of nav­i­ga­tion and over flight in the South China Sea and through­out the Asia Pa­cific. We’ll en­sure the unim­peded flow of law­ful com­merce and pro­mote peace­ful diplo­matic di­a­logue to ad­dress is­sues of re­gional and global con­cern.”

After the meet­ing with Jokowi, Pence held bi­lat­eral talks with Vice Pres­i­dent Jusuf Kalla for less than 30 min­utes.

Pence and Kalla are slated to wit­ness the sign­ing of agree­ments worth $8 bil­lion be­tween state en­ergy com­pany Per­tam­ina and US ExxonMo­bil, as well as state power com­pany PLN with Pa­cific In­tra Cap­i­tal Pa­cific LLC dur­ing Fri­day’s busi­ness fo­rum.

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