US Businesses Engage with Indonesia to Strengthen Economic Ties

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by Karin Silitonga
The US-ASEAN Business Council delegation met President Joko Widodo at the Merdeka Palace. [Image: Indonesian Presidential Secretariat Press Bureau]

A delegation of more than 85 senior executives representing 41 US companies headed to Jakarta, Indonesia on March 13 as part of the 2018 Indonesia Business Mission, hosted by the US-ASEAN Business Council. The three-day Mission is an annual program consisting of bilateral meetings with Indonesian government officials and business community leaders, enabling delegates to discuss key policy issues and promote trade and investment opportunities.

The Mission comes at a crucial time as Indonesia’s regional elections are occurring this upcoming June, and national elections are taking place early next year. Throughout the Mission, the delegation was able to hear more about the administration’s plans, while also advocating for opportunities for economic cooperation that will strengthen relations and benefit both the United States and Indonesia.

Delegates met with numerous key government officials, including President Joko Widodo. During the meeting, President Joko Widodo highlighted Indonesia’s efforts to promote investment and ease of doing business, emphasizing the country’s commitment to economic reform and assuring positive developments in two months. With the president’s 16 economic reform packages, and patterns of revoking regulations to boost investment activities in Indonesia, it is evident that efforts are being made to improve Indonesia’s investment climate, and the Mission only further bolsters that improvement.

At the end of the Mission, the US-ASEAN Business Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM). The MoU will facilitate more collaborative opportunities to promote economic relations and foreign direct investment. BKPM Chairman Thomas Lembong, who visited Washington, DC in June 2017 for the Trade and Investment Framework (TIFA) meetings, also highlighted that American investors are of importance to Indonesia.

These developments contribute to the greater narrative of the multi-faceted relationship between the United States and ASEAN. US investment in ASEAN is extensive, with the region receiving almost $274 billion in cumulative investment, making ASEAN the number one destination for US investment in Asia. In turn, as the 5th largest economy in the world, ASEAN’s investment into the United States has vastly increased over the years, with the United States receiving more investment from ASEAN than from China and India combined.  The United States is also ASEAN’s 4th largest trading partner, demonstrating the growing economic relationship between the two.

Karunia "Karin" Silitonga is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a recent graduate of Baylor University.