Trade expo opens with an attitude of optimism

Vincent Lingga, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono opened the annual Trade Expo Indonesia at The Kemayoran fair grounds here Tuesday amid fears of a weakening global economy that could dampen international demand for the country's commodities.

The President cited the International Monetary Fund's downward revision of world economic growth from 5.2 to 4.8 percent next year and the steep rise in oil prices, warning "this could affect our exports, the state budget and the whole economy".

"But the government is fully aware of this challenge and has taken preemptive measures to minimize its impact on our economy," he said.

He said less favorable international market conditions should lead to stronger cooperation between the central government, regional administrations and the business community to improve the country's economic competitiveness and its exports.

The President urged all government institutions to improve public services and expedite the licensing process for businesses, saying the competition on the international market and for investment would only get tougher.

"It is a big sin to deliberately make things difficult for businesses," Yudhoyono said to the applause of businesspeople, foreign buyers and exhibitors attending the opening ceremony.

Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said the five-day trade expo was being attended by more than 1,000 exhibitors and was expected to be visited by 4,000 foreign buyers and book US$200 million worth of export deals.

During the opening, the President also honored 29 small and large companies with the Primaniyarta export award for their outstanding performance in the international market.

Among those honored was PT Musim Mas, an integrated palm oil company in Medan, North Sumatra, which won the award for the eighth time. Its affiliate PT Megasurya Mas in Surabaya, also a palm oil industry, won that award for the third time especially for global brand promotion.

Most of the winners are natural resource-based exporters that process such commodities as palm oil, bamboo, rattan, rubber, wood, ceramic, pulp and coal.

Yudhoyono said Indonesian exports last year for the first time exceeded $100 billion, or almost 18 percent higher than 2005, and are expected to continue expanding by nearly 16 percent this year.

According to the Central Statistics Agency, non-oil exports totaled $59.9 billion in the first eight months of the year, up 19 percent from a year earlier, but most of the gain was generated by steep rises in the prices of primary commodities such as palm oil, rubber, coffee, wood, coal, pulp, copper and other minerals.

The President said exports were not the sole responsibility of the Trade Ministry because the competitiveness of export products was influenced by numerous factors under the jurisdiction of other ministries.

"The projected decline in global economic expansion should force all of us to work together to strengthen the competitiveness of our exports to make our economy more attractive to foreign investment. Customs service should be expedient, taxpayers should pay their taxes in full," he said.

Inefficient logistical arrangements related to roads, transportation services and seaport handling have often been cited as one of the biggest difficulties facing Indonesian companies seeking to expand exports.
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