APEC and America’s Image

//APEC and America’s Image

I normally go about my business keeping my American roots a little under wraps.  AICC is after all a bi-national association.  Right before this year’s APEC meetings in Bali (October), there was the third US-Indonesia Commercial Dialog.  Seated opposite from each other around a large square table were roughly 10 CEO’s from each country.   I found a seat right in the middle.  Its a reasonable spot for someone in my position: our members import as well as export to Indonesia and our membership (although the majority are US firms) includes Indonesian companies that have invested in the US.   But, my innate patriotism surfaced when AMCHAM and the US Chamber revealed the results of a survey of 35 US companies: $65 billion has been invested in Indonesia since 2002 and another $61 billion is projected to be invested in the next 3-5 years.  35 is the number of firms that replied, so these numbers are probably a little on the low side.   The firms include companies who are in the oil/gas and financial sectors where investment is booked differently than what is normally tracked by the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM).  Instead of a 3rd, 4th or even 7th place, the position BKPM usually shows, the US is likely the largest foreign investor in Indonesia and probably has been for quite some time.   Now, while I was in Indonesia a month ago the US was beat up in the press for our shutdown and debt payment issue. The Chinese press agency had the temerity to suggest that the world would better off without the dollar as a reserve currency.  My Indonesian friends did not seem swayed by this argument but certainly China, Japan, and Russia’s leaders received a lot of ink for announcing their intentions to invest billions, whereas the study, did not.   Perhaps its not our style, and yes, President Obama, was not there.   US companies do have significant issues related to investment that need to be worked out with Indonesia.  But, on the other hand, the study shows our intention to stay and expand and does so without even mentioning the area of capital market investment where the US is probably the biggest source.  So, America’s leaders can stand a little taller in their interactions with their Indonesian counterparts: it is vital that Indonesia policy makers listen carefully to our suggestions on improving the investment climate.  As one Indonesian CEO told me after the Commercial Dialog, “your side should have said more about the problems you experience here.  Sometimes its harder for us to express them but we have the same ones.” 

By | 2017-11-10T14:29:42+00:00 November 13th, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments

About the Author:

Wayne Forrest is President of the American Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, a private not for profit membership organization based in NY.

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