From Paras Indonesia

Big Friend, Small News

September, 28 2006 @ 10:07 am
Roy Tupai

Vice President Jusuf Kalla boasts that his US visit will bring major benefits to the Indonesian people. Indeed? US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice hailed Indonesia as a "great friend", but apart from that, US officials have so far said very little about Kalla's visit.

Kalla has held at least 14 meetings with US officials and investors since commencing his Washington trip on September 22 and is confident of strong results. "The results of this visit will have far-reaching benefits and be enjoyed by the people after 2009," he said on Tuesday night. He emphasized that his "achievements" were in no way intended to serve the interests of the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono-Kalla government, which will complete its first term in 2009.

Among the prominent figures who met with Kalla were: US Vice President Dick Cheney, State Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Trade Representative Susan Schwab, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato, and managers of major oil, gas and mining firms.

Here's what Cheney's official website says about his meeting with Kalla:

Well, nothing actually (although the site does offer a fascinating video tour of the vice president's residence by Lynne V. Cheney). The sites of Paulson, Gutierrez, Hadley and de Rato also don't mention Kalla's visit.

At least the US State Department's site has something to say about Kalla. Although not very much and apparently not very audibly:

Secretary Rice After Meeting Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla
Ritz Carlton Hotel
Washington, DC
September 26, 2006

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, what was the meeting with the Vice President?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I want to thank the Vice President for seeing me, for taking the time to see me. Indonesia is such a wonderful friend. And we are so grateful to have in Indonesia a country that is known for its tolerance and for its moderation and for its ability of all of its people to get along. The United States is very fortunate to include and know Indonesia (inaudible). Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, in what way was this (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thank you.

Then there was the flattering mention of Kalla at the State Department's daily press briefing:

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 26, 2006

QUESTION: Will she be doing an interview on the meeting with the Indonesian?

MR. MCCORMACK: An interview? Yeah, we're -- the Indonesians are the host on that, so they'll be dictating the press coverage. I don't know that she's going to be taking questions at that, Barry.

QUESTION: No, no, I meant looking for information on the meeting. She, more than occasionally, gives interviews to news organizations with the -- from the other country. I just wondered if she's going to do anything with Indonesians that we can look to?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing -- no. Nothing scheduled, Barry. I don't know if they'll stop her on the sidewalk or something, but nothing planned at this point.

In fact, the only lengthy mention of Kalla's visit so far comes from the US Trade Representative's office, which signed an agreement with Trade Minister Mari Pangestu to prevent illegal shipments of textiles and apparel from Indonesia to the US. Schwab said the memorandum of understanding (MoU) "establishes a formal mechanism to help safeguard legitimate textile trade between our two countries, while stopping illegal textile transshipments".

"Today’s agreement demonstrates a commitment by the United States and Indonesia to work together to strengthen our trading relationship," she said.

The MoU, part of the US-Indonesia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, provides for customs cooperation, identification of textile and apparel manufacturers, and joint verification visits to provide each country’s government with the information necessary to stop textile and apparel transshipments. The US is Indonesia’s largest market for exports of textile and apparel products. In 2005, textile and apparel imports from Indonesia were valued at $3.13 billion, making Indonesia the US' fifth largest textile and apparel supplier in value terms.

In their meeting, Schwab, Pangestu and Kalla discussed issues on the US–Indonesia bilateral trade agenda, including the enforcement of intellectual property rights, removal of barriers to exports of US fruits to Indonesia, and reviving the World Trade Organization Doha Round. If the fruit barriers go, consumers could look forward to cheaper prices for imported imported apples, grapes and oranges. Indonesian fruit growers may complain, although they generally find it difficult to grow such temperate horticultural products due to the country's climate.

State news agency Antara said nearly all of Kalla's meetings took place at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he and his entourage stayed, "which indicated that Kalla was a state guest who was respected". With Cheney however, Kalla was invited to the White House.

Kalla said the commitments made by the US officials and investors have to be followed up, as the results of his economic diplomacy would not be felt immediately. "What is important is that we have to provide optimism for the people. An economic success cannot be measured by short-term measurement. If we measure economic success in a short-term period, it would be dangerous," he was quoted as saying by Antara.

For example, he said, if there was an investment announcement tomorrow, then US companies would soon come to invest $2 billion in the Indonesian capital market and then it would be over. "That's not what we are looking for in the United States. We want a long term investment," he added.

The vice president said although short-investments could be made in the capital market, longer-term investments were needed in the oil and mining sector, such as the Cepu oil block. He said Indonesians should not expect the benefits of ExxonMobil's investment in Cepu to be enjoyed by the current government because the project would not commence production until 2009.

Commenting on his meeting with Cheney, Kalla said he asked the US not to be suspicious of Indonesia because of radicalism and terrorism. He said such phenomena were fostered by economic injustices and foreign influences. That's why the country's economy must be strong, he said, adding that Cheney voiced support for Indonesia's development as one of the world's biggest democracies.

On his meeting with Hadley, Kalla said he raised the issue of Indonesia's desire to question alleged terror mastermind Hambali, who reputedly headed al Qaeda's Southeast Asian wing until his arrest in Thailand in 2003. Hambali is now being held at Guantanamo Bay by the US, which has repeatedly refused to hand him over to Indonesia for trial. "We discussed him with National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley because this is about resolving terrorism, so we must have access, as it's impossible for us to know the background of the [terror] incidents without having clear access," said Kalla.

On Tuesday night, Kalla was the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by the United States-Indonesia Society (USINDO) and the US-ASEAN Business Council at the Four Seasons Hotel Ballroom. He said Indonesia was an "anchor of stability" and further foreign support of its democracy "is very critical to send a strong signal that Islam and democracy are compatible".

The Associated Press quoted Kalla as saying that to protect "the largest new democracy in the Muslim world and the third largest democracy in the world", there is a need to strengthen the country's long, porous borders, strategic sea lanes and defense systems. He said assistance from the US and other "friendly countries" would ensure Indonesia becomes "more democratic, stable and prosperous but [also] a model in the region".

The vice president noted the Indonesian government had brought peace to Aceh province and is confident of also finding a peaceful solution to separatism in Aceh province.

He said that despite rising income levels, Indonesia still faces enormous challenges, such as corruption, terrorism, bird flu, natural disasters and social unrest. "Considering its limited resources to deal with great, daunting and overwhelming challenges, the Indonesian government welcomes and appreciates any support and kind assistance," he was quoted as saying by AP.

Kalla's last meeting in Washington is scheduled to be with World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz. He will then leave for New York and next head to Canada.

Rights groups in Indonesia have criticized Kalla over a remark he made on Sunday that security and political stability are more important than democracy for attracting foreign investment.

By: Roy Tupai | Category: Politics
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