Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, center, seen with US Congressman David E. Price, right, and US Ambassador Joseph R. Donovan during a special luncheon hosted by AmCham Indonesia and the United States-Indonesia Society (Usindo) at Fairmont Hotel in South Jakarta on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs)

Influential American Lawmakers Upbeat Over Stronger US-Indonesia Cooperation

BY : MUHAMAD AL AZHARI & JEREMY SIREGAR

AUGUST 02, 2019

Jakarta. Influential United States legislators are upbeat over the prospects of stronger economic cooperation between their country and Indonesia, especially on trade and investment, amid steady economic growth and a stable political situation in the archipelago.

Several members of the US Congress visited Jakarta on Thursday to engage with their Indonesian counterparts and others on business, economic and legislative partnerships.

The delegation, led by David E. Price, representative for North Carolina's fourth congressional district, and Vern Buchanan of Florida's 16th congressional district, also attended a special luncheon hosted by AmCham Indonesia and the United States-Indonesia Society (Usindo).

Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, Communication and Information Technology Minister Rudiantara, Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) chief Tom Lembong and US Ambassador Joseph R. Donovan participated in a discussion during the event, held at Fairmont Hotel in South Jakarta. 

"The Indonesian economy, as we just heard during this luncheon, is opening up in promising ways. We are impressed by the statistics. We know it can be better," Price told the Jakarta Globe on the sidelines.

"One of the ways to make it better, is to encourage US investment and to encourage robust trade between our countries. We see lots of positive development here and we see opportunity for our country too, for our future cooperation," he added.

The United States is Indonesia's seventh-largest investor, according to BKPM data on investment realization in January-June 2019. The data showed that US investors plowed $631.7 million into more than 500 projects in the first half, compared with $273.9 million in 372 projects in the corresponding period last year.

Human Resources Development

Minister Luhut, who delivered the keynote address, updated the US delegation on the government's current economic policies. He told the visiting lawmakers that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who was re-elected in April, would likely embark on massive human resources development in his second term.

"Human capital is the president's next target. We cannot only focus on infrastructure. We must also focus on human capital, because it is a major issue for the country," the minister said.

He added that this had prompted the government to make a regulation allowing huge tax cuts for companies investing in research and development.

Indonesia has long sought to reduce its dependence on resource extraction. Jokowi, who during his first term ramped up state spending on the country's ailing infrastructure, has made a similar statement, saying that human resources would be Indonesia's next focus, as the country seeks to become more competitive.

Luhut said he believes the United States and Indonesia are already on track for stronger cooperation and partnerships.

"The US and Indonesia share the same views on openness, fair competition and innovation as the foundation of a vibrant democracy," he said. "The US and Indonesia both have large, diverse populations and the two countries have made deep commitments to pluralism and tolerance."

"We have yet to explore the full potential of our relationship," he added.

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