Tue, 26 Sep 2006

RI domestic affairs crucial to U.S. investors, Kalla says

Avian E. Tumengkol, The Jakarta Post, Washington

Vice President Jusuf Kalla has named domestic reform and stability as overriding factors for U.S. corporations to invest in Indonesia, warning that the failure to achieve them would continue to deter foreign investors.

Kalla, speaking during a dialog with the Indonesian community in Washington on Saturday, said democracy came second after stability on the matter of investment.

"The most crucial factors in foreign investment for Indonesia are our domestic situation and stability," Kalla said, adding that the country's image and international perceptions of it also were key.

Discussing his trip to meet with leading U.S. corporations as well as top government officials in Washington, New York and Chicago, Kalla said it would involve hardcore economic diplomacy and his team of economic lobbyists would play a strong role.

"We have to be positive, our intention here is clear where I, together with the ministers and officials, will talk to our potential investors," the Vice President told The Jakarta Post, emphasizing he was "very optimistic" of the results.

He emphasized that the energy sector was a major business opportunity and that it must be explored to benefit Indonesia.

Among scheduled meetings for Kalla, whose entourage includes Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro and Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) chairman MS Hidayat, are with Freeport McMoran Cooper & Gold Inc. executive Jim Moffet, U.S. Chamber of Commerce chairman Tom Donahue and U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

"We want to expand our investments, in addition to existing, and increase our trade," Mari told The Jakarta Post, adding that talks with USTR also would help prevent transshipments to Indonesia.

She said scheduled talks in Chicago were very important.

"Indonesia seldom visits Chicago, an important part of the U.S., and the last time we visited Chicago was during the era of Industrial Minister Hartarto ..." she said of a visit 15 years ago.

Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) chairman Muhammad Lutfi noted the U.S. was only the ninth largest foreign investor in Indonesia.

"Not only do we want promote investment to existing partners, but also those who have not and are prospective (investors)."

Purnomo noted the many opportunities to be found across North America.

"There are so many `big fish' in the United States," he said.