US President-elect Donald Trump, right, stands with Setya Novanto, the speaker of Indonesia's House of Representatives, at Trump Tower in New York. (Reuters Photo/Lucas Jackson)

Trump's Indonesia Ventures to Go Ahead Despite Conflict of Interest Criticism


JANUARY 03, 2017

Jakarta. US President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly going ahead with business ventures in Indonesia, despite pledging an end to foreign business deals which could spark a conflict of interest.

The Trump Organization, which manages Trump's business ventures and investments, has contracts to develop two large resort projects in Indonesia — one in Lido, West Java, and another in tourism spot Bali — according to a New York Times report published Saturday (31/12).

“Construction is well underway and will proceed as planned,” Trump Organization spokeswoman Amanda Miller said, as quoted by New York Times.

Selling himself during the presidential election campaign period as a savvy billionaire who would use his business expertise to improve the US economy, negotiate better trade deals all while cutting taxes, Trump will enter the White House with a complex array of assets and interests which has caused concern for constitutional experts.

Trump companies have a presence in at least 20 countries, including Britain, India, the Philippines and Turkey. Since the November poll, international press has covered how Trump's business empire could pose conflicts of interest.

The New York Times noted Trump, who will take office later this month, has forged relationships with "powerful political figures in Indonesia," including Golkar chairman and Speaker of the House of Representatives Setya Notvanto, who himself has been embroiled in controversy including a 2015 extortion scandal with US mining giant Freeport-McMoran.

Media mogul and Trump's main Indonesian business partner Hary Tanoesoedi, is reportedly considering a presidential run in the 2019, despite a failed vice-presidential bid in 2014 and a fledgling political party of little influence.

“You could have two world leaders that are business partners,” Richard W. Painter, who served as a White House ethics lawyer during the George W. Bush administration, was quoted as saying by the Times.

“It makes it almost impossible to conduct diplomacy in an evenhanded manner. That does not work."

The Times also highlighted the role of Trump advisor on regulatory issues in Indonesia, Carl C. Icah, who is a top shareholder in Freeport. The mining giant controls one of the world's largest copper and gold mines and is the country's largest taxpayer. Freeport is currently seeking to extend its mining contract with the government.

Recent reports have suggested the Trump family were making efforts to resolve these potential conflicts, including establishing blind trusts and terminate development deals, despite Trump continuing to maintain no conflicts exist.

The Indonesian government has declared it will take a "wait-and-see" approach to the incoming president, particularly when it comes to foreign policy.

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