Mon, 08 Nov 2010

From: The Jakarta Globe

By S.K. Zainuddin
Jakarta. US President Barack Obama’s visit to Indonesia this week will encourage more American businesses to explore opportunities in the country, says Joe Bartlett, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia.

Bartlett said that over the past six months, several US companies had come to Indonesia to check out the opportunities.

The country’s prominent standing as a member of the G-20 and the chair-in-waiting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) next year had raised its profile significantly in the United States, he said.

“A presidential visit will highlight Indonesia not just to American businesses but also to the American people,” Bartlett said. “As Indonesia gains more prominence, more American businesses will come here.”

Bartlett, who has worked in Indonesia for 39 years, said he had seen many ups and downs in relations between the two countries but was encouraged by a heightened sense of cooperation.

He said the Comprehensive Partnership set to be signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and President Obama would encourage more high-level interaction.

The past year has seen several high-level US visits to Indonesia, including by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

“It is a positive signal to Americans in general that Indonesia, as the third-largest democracy and the largest Muslim nation, can be a partner to the US,” Bartlett said.

“President Obama will meet many different parts of Indonesian society and that sends a very positive message back to the US.”

The American Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia has about 500 members.

Bartlett said US businesses already operating in Indonesia were optimistic about growth prospects and many were expanding. “Most of them are operating profitably and are happy with the workforce,” he said.

But many challenges remained. Foreign businesses were concerned about new mining and oil and gas laws, which were deemed not favorable to the business climate.

It is unlikely the US business community here will get to meet Obama.

But Bartlett had a message for the president.

“If I met him I would say that we believe that American businesses and Americans working abroad are very important assets and he has to encourage his administration to fully support them,” he said.

“We are good economic ambassadors for the country.”