Jokowi's trip to US aims to change Indonesia's corrupt image
Indonesian President Joko Widodo departs for the United States for a 5-day visit on Sunday, October 25 on a mission to try to change the image of his country from one mired in economic nationalism and corruption to one open for international investment.
In addition to seeing President Barack Obama and other US officials, dining with top US companies at the US Chamber of Commerce and speaking at the Brookings Institution think tank, Jokowi, as the president is known, will meet with leaders of the US Congress before going to the west coast where he is to meet with executives of Apple, Microsoft and Google.
“They are hoping the visit sends the message that the restrictive and unfriendly regulatory environment is changing in Indonesia,” a source said. “There will be some creative ideas put forward.”
The Indonesian president is also expected to publicly sign several business deals that have been prepared in advance of his visit, and to discuss the possibility of joining the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) within two years.
Tom Lembong, the trade minister, a Harvard graduate who has publicly advocated Indonesia’s membership in the 12-member trade pact, will be on the trip along with other officials. (READ: Q&A with Trade Minister: How Indonesia is fixing its 'misguided' economic policy)
“Jokowi is trying to change the narrative,” said a businessman in Jakarta. “They are hoping the visit sends the message that the restrictive and unfriendly regulatory environment is changing. They have gummed up everything from technological investment through harsh local content rules to requiring a strict permitting regime on imports and limiting expatriate visas, plus they have bungled the way they introduced mandatory use of the rupiah for all transactions in the country.”
As a signal of his personal commitment, Jokowi, as the president is known, in early October personally pushed through a long-stalled deal to allow Freeport McMoRan, the Phoenix, Arizona-based mining giant, to extend its long-stalled mining contract for the Grasberg complex in Papua, in which Freeport plans to invest an additional US$18 billion.
It is the largest gold mine in the world and the third-largest copper mine.The investment will fund underground development of the mine. (READ: Indonesia, Freeport agree on deal)
“The Freeport deal is so important,” a source said. “US$18 billion is enormous and they need it. All the arguing about the legalities of the contract that has gone on masks the fact that officials in Jokowi’s own government appeared to want to grab a slice of Freeport for themselves.”
In addition, in advance of the trip, the government has rescinded a number of restrictive measures on investment and liberalized others. Those liberalizations were signaled in September when the president sent his entire cabinet on a retreat to work on a package of liberalizations. – Rappler.com
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