Kalla tells U.S. businesses to take a chance on RI

Avian E. Tumengkol, The Jakarta Post, Washington

Visiting Vice President Jusuf Kalla challenged U.S. corporations in Washington to invest in Indonesia on Monday, saying their commitment would yield significant profits.

"I realize that Indonesia still needs improvements in certain areas, but we are now working very hard to rebuild our nation's infrastructure. My challenge is to encourage U.S. businesses to come to Indonesia and invest as there are many opportunities," Kalla said while addressing members of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council members.

While inaugurating the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, its president Matthew Daley said that U.S. corporations were serious about Indonesia's potential opportunities for investment.

He added that American business leaders learned that Indonesia was making positive developments that engendered confidence for economic engagement in the country.

"The U.S. business society supports Indonesia as we appreciate the efforts made that have shown that Indonesia is serious about economic reforms in the country," Daley said in an introduction to the forum.

"There is enormous interest from American businesses as we have seen improvements in governance, Indonesia's fight against terror and the sanctity of contracts with existing agreements."

Kalla, accompanied by Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, Indonesian Ambassador to the United States Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat and other members of the delegation, stressed that Indonesia was serious about doing business with the U.S. and building an agreement for a solid partnership in stimulating economic growth.

In his address, Kalla said Indonesia had changed over the past several years and that the government was fully committed to making more significant improvement in the months ahead.

"Indonesia is totally committed to major reforms and I am very optimistic that we will achieve it. The government is confident."

The Vice President explained his government, led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's commitment and vision, was focused on achieving domestic stability, both politically and economically.

He said that the government was concentrating on major reforms and enhancements in its infrastructure, saying that Indonesia's domestic situation was most important, in addition to sectors in government policies, telecommunication, agriculture, labor, energy, toll roads, harbors, airport infrastructure, education and healthcare.

Kalla also stressed the importance of investment law and labor system reforms.

"Investment law and labor systems will be reengineered and I am confident that we will finalize its reform by the early 2007."

Following his remarks, U.S.-Indonesia Business Council Chairman Robert Haines reiterated the importance of those two areas, identifying labor as a major factor.

"Thank you for respecting the labor law and its system as it is very important to the U.S., and it also plays a key role in economic growth," Haines said.

Cargill International Business Relations Director Devry Boughner noted that Indonesia has been in talks with th United States for a possible Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

"Indonesia wants to wait for the U.S. November elections before advancing. But we (Indonesia) remain committed," Mari responded, adding that Indonesia enjoyed close ties with the United Stated in its trade partnership.

Boeing Company International Vice President Stanley Roth noted that foreign direct investment (FDI) in Indonesia, according to statistics, declined 40 percent and it was not an encouraging sign.

"This will change. I am optimistic that Indonesia will change in the months ahead. Foreign investments is encouraged," Kalla answered, repeating the government's focus on major reforms, domestic stability and a solid economic direction.
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