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            [post_content] => Updated on Saturday, April 22 at 05.44 p.m. 

Jakarta. Indonesia and the United States agreed on Friday (21/04) to find ways to reduce barriers to U.S. companies operating in Southeast Asia's largest economy, visiting U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Jakarta's investment chief said.

The Trump administration has put Indonesia on a list of 16 countries whose trade surpluses with the United States will be put under review. A series of disputes between Indonesia and American firms has also ruffled ties.

"We will work with President Jokowi to reduce barriers to trade and investments and to create a truly level playing field where all our businesses have equal opportunity and market access," Pence said. Jokowi is the nickname of Indonesia's President Joko Widodo.

"The president and I spoke about that very candidly and very respectfully," Pence told a roundtable discussion with business executives in Jakarta before flying to Australia on the last leg of his 10-day Asia-Pacific tour.

Indonesia's investments barriers include a lack of intellectual property protection, insufficient transparency with regulations and requiring local content for manufactured goods sold in the Indonesian market, Pence said.

Indonesia's Investment Coordinating Board chief Tom Lembong said Widodo agreed "we still have too many regulations, too many barriers to trade, and these are bad for local and international industries".

"I'm optimistic because President Jokowi and President Trump are both lifelong business people, and I think they are very focused on the practical issues that hinder business and investment," Lembong told Reuters. "I feel that the Trump administration and the Jokowi administration are on the same wavelength."

Lembong said Indonesia needs both investment and imports from the United States, "especially productivity-enhancing products and services. You need imports to boost exports."

$10 billion agreements

Neither side disclosed any discussions about the disputes Indonesia has had with American companies of late.

Over the past six months, Indonesia has wrestled with mining giant Freeport McMoRan, demanding the company divest 51 percent of its shares in its Papua-based gold and copper mine, and has demanded that Google Inc. settle unpaid taxes and fines of more than $400 million. Jakarta also scrubbed JP Morgan from its list of primary bond dealers after what was deemed a negative research report.

Pence did, however, witness the signing of more than $10 billion in memoranda of understanding with U.S. companies in Indonesia on Friday.

Among the 11 agreements were ones by Exxon Mobil to sell liquefied natural gas to Pertamina, Lockheed Martin to provide upgrades to the Indonesian Air Force's F-16s, and General Electric to develop electrical infrastructure in Indonesia.

"We think there are opportunities to clear open the way for American companies to participate more greatly in Indonesia," Pence said, adding the agreements would "draw our nations closer together and benefit both our people."

Counter-Terrorism Cooperation

Pence said in opening remarks to the roundtable that an attack in central Paris is the latest reminder terrorism can strike anywhere at anytime, and the United States would not relent in its efforts to end terrorism.

"The people of Indonesia can be confident in the wake of this latest attack: We will not relent in our effort to end terrorism and the threat it presents to both of our peoples," Pence said.

A French policeman was shot dead and two others were wounded in central Paris on Thursday night in an attack carried out days before presidential elections and quickly claimed by the Islamic State militant group.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, has itself been hit by a series of deadly attacks over the past 15 years, led by militants affiliated with al Qaeda and more recently by Islamic State.

Pence said Washington would continue working with Indonesia to combat terrorism. On Thursday, Pence toured the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Southeast Asia's largest, and said Indonesia's moderate form of Islam should serve as an example to other nations.

Indonesia has expressed concern about the Trump administration's proposal to bar entry to citizens of some predominantly Muslim nations. That plan, however, remains stalled in courts.

Pence on Thursday announced Trump would visit Southeast Asia in November for an annual series of regional summits. They include the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Vietnam and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in the Philippines.

Reuters
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            [post_content] => Washington/Jakarta. The United States said on Thursday (13/04) it would start an investigation into imports of biodiesel from Indonesia and Argentina for possible dumping and subsidization.

The US International Trade Commission is scheduled to make a preliminary decision by May 8 on whether such imports hurt US producers, the US commerce department said in a statement.

The step, just days ahead of a visit to Indonesia by US Vice President Mike Pence, comes after some US biodiesel producers last month asked their government to impose anti-dumping duties on imports of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia that they say have flooded the US market and violated trade agreements.

"The Indonesian government, especially the trade ministry, will be cooperative in the investigation by providing arguments and supportive data and documents to show that there was no dumping or subsidies," Oke Nurwan, Indonesia's director general for foreign trade, told Reuters.

Indonesia's biodiesel group said it had asked its government to bring up the issue during Pence's visit to Jakarta next week.

Argentina's biodiesel association Carbio has previously rebuffed dumping accusations.

Indonesia is the world's top producer of palm oil, which can be used to churn out biodiesel. The nation relies heavily on resource exports.

Total US biodiesel imports rose to a record 3.5 billion liters in 2016, according to US government data published in March. Argentina represented about two-thirds of US foreign imports, followed by Indonesia and Canada.

Indonesia is also facing pressure in Europe, with its government filing a WTO complain against European Union anti-dumping duties on Indonesian biodiesel.

Meanwhile, the European parliament voted last week to call on the EU to phase out use of palm oil in biodiesel by 2020. Indonesia, along with Malaysia, plans to send a joint mission to Europe next month to prevent the adoption of that resolution.

Reuters
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            [post_content] => Jakarta. The government has played down concerns over possible changes in the economic relationship between Indonesia and the United States following the election of Donald Trump as president.

Trump, who championed a protectionist policy and for the United States to retreat from the global cooperation agenda, is coming into power at a time when Indonesia seeks to boost US trade and investment in the archipelago.

For one thing, the president-elect wanted to impose punitive import tariffs, in particular on China, and promised to shut down the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative, a free-trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries, which Indonesia also seeks to join.

"Nobody knows whether Donald Trump will continue the Trans-Pacific Partnership. [...] Even we are still studying the cooperation," Coordinating Economic Affairs Minister Darmin Nasution said on Thursday (10/11). "It's too early to tell and it's not the right time to conclude how his administration will be."

In the meantime, the government would focus on keeping domestic economic fundamentals strong, the minister said.

Financial markets also seem to agree with the government's assessment, that it remains to be seen how Trump translates his campaign rhetoric into a workable policy. The Jakarta Composite Index rebounded 0.7 percent at the closing on Thursday to 5,450, recouping some of Wednesday's 1 percent slump.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati separately highlighted that Trump's positions on trade, investment, interest rates and climate change in his campaign may change economic dynamics in Asia, including Indonesia.

"Like it or not, America is the world's biggest market," she said. "We see some aspects that will affect the global market both directly and indirectly. We'll keep our eyes on it so we'll have some options to ensure that Indonesia is not vulnerable to market developments in the United States, Europe and other Asian countries."

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said earlier that he hoped Indonesia's relationship with the United States would remain steady, especially on trade and investment.

The United States is usually among Indonesia's top 10 largest foreign direct investment sources, but it has been in decline, with 2015 investment amounting to less than half of that in 2013.

Bilateral trade between Indonesia and the United States has declined by an average of 3 percent annually since 2013, but the US market is becoming more important to the archipelago, as China – Indonesia's main trading partner – lowered demand for raw materials. The United States accounted for 11 percent of Indonesia's total exports in 2016, compared to just 7.6 percent in 2013.

Indonesia mostly exports textiles, rubber, electronic components and footwear to the United States, while importing aircraft, soybeans, seeds, fruits, machinery, poultry feed and electrical goods from there.
            [post_title] => Too Early to Worry About Trump's Policies: Gov't
            [post_excerpt] => The government played down worries on possible issues following the Republican Donald Trump's victory in the United States presidential election that may bring some changes in the dynamic of Indonesia-US economic cooperation.
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