Time for U.S. business to recognize RI potential

Andi Haswidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Having been informed by the Indonesian government of the progress made to date, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Thomas J. Donohue said that now was the time for U.S. businesses to fully recognize Indonesia's commercial potential.

"Indonesia has not always received the attention and focus it deserves back in the United States -- but that's changing. And we at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce aim to change it further," Donohue said during a lunch meeting with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce on Monday.

With that in mind, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is considering Indonesia, as well as from Singapore, as a location for its proposed strategic branch office for Southeast Asia.

Donohue said that U.S. corporations were impressed by the progress made here, despite the recent natural disasters, especially the Aceh tsunami last year.

"Through earthquakes, terrorist attacks, a devastating financial crisis and, of course, the horrific tsunami, this is a country that never gives up and never gives in," he said.

"Now, the country has begun another journey. In many ways it is even more challenging, but it can be equally rewarding. It's a journey down the path of economic reform and open markets, which will lead to the creation of jobs, hope and opportunity for the 245 million people of this great country," he said.

Indonesian Chamber of Commerce president Mohamad S. Hidayat said the meeting was a follow-up to a similar meeting between the two chambers last year in the U.S.

"In today's meeting, I urged the chamber to lobby the U.S. government to lift the travel warning on Indonesia. Such travel warnings can hamper investment and trade between the two countries," he said.

The total value of trade between Indonesia and the U.S. averages about US$15 billion annually, with the value having increased by a mere $1.3 billion over the last five years.

"We should improve our trade with the U.S. It is clear that we need more U.S. investment," he said.

Elsewhere, Donohue said the delegation was particularly impressed by what it had heard from the government about its commitment to improving infrastructure, while at the same time taking positive steps to reform the tax, investment and labor legislation.

"Apart from the legal reforms, we would urge the Indonesian government to continue attacking corruption and the violation of intellectual property, although there has been extraordinary progress in that regard," he said.

Last week, the U.S. government removed Indonesia from its Priority Watch list for intellectual property rights violations and placed the country on its Watch list due to the solid progress that had been achieved in strengthening the Indonesian intellectual property regime.

The change is expected to have positive implications for Indonesia's economy in the form of an enhancement of the country's regional and global competitiveness.

Still, there is plenty of work still to be done. In particular, Donohue stressed the importance of the government improving transparency and legal certainty.
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