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Indonesia, US sign $750m infrastructure, trade deal

Adrian Wail Akhlas The Jakarta Post Thu, November 19, 2020

 Indonesian Ambassador to the United States Muhammad Lutfi (left) stands next to Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan (center), and Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) president Kimberly Reed at the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Washington DC on Nov. 18. (Embassy of Republic Indonesia in Washington DC

Indonesia and the United States signed on Wednesday a US$750 million agreement to finance trade and infrastructure projects as the countries seek to strengthen economic relations. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the deal was signed in Washington DC by Indonesian Ambassador to the US Muhammad Lutfi and Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) president Kimberly Reed.

 The signing was witnessed by Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, who is visiting the US this week, along with Deputy Foreign Minister Mahendra Siregar, among others.

Lutfi said the bilateral agreement was expected to help boost prosperity, advance democracy and ensure regional stability for both countries. “The MoU will further strengthen the economic partnership between Indonesia and the US as part of an effort to expand cooperation in investment and the procurement of goods and services,” he said in a statement.

The agreement also aims to expand opportunities for both countries to work together on government projects and for business development in infrastructure, transportation and energy, among other areas. Infrastructure development is a main focus of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration.

The National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) previously estimated that Indonesia would need $429.7 billion in infrastructure investment from 2020 to 2024, equal to 6.1 percent of the nation’s GDP.

The figure outlined in the MoU is an increase from the previous $500 million deal from 2017 to 2018. EXIM president Kimberly Reed said the agreement was a “significant achievement” in strengthening the US’ participation in Indonesian development projects in a broad range of sectors, such as energy, infrastructure and information and communications technology. “This MoU reflects Indonesia’s importance to the US administration,” Reed said in a statement.

Earlier this year, EXIM met with representatives from ASEAN to discuss ways to export more US goods and services to the region. They also underscored the role of EXIM in the $110 billion worth of infrastructure development in the region. Indonesia recently secured a continuing beneficiary status in the United States’ general system of preferences (GSP) program, which is expected to help Indonesia increase its exports to – and overall trade with – the world’s largest economy.

 Under the program, Indonesia can export 3,572 types of products to the US without tariffs. So far, the country has only exported 729 of those preferred products. During the visit of the top Indonesian officials, the United States offered to cooperate with the country in vaccine production. In a meeting with US president Donald Trump, Luhut delivered a message from Jokowi, who thanked Trump for his support for cooperation between the two countries, specifically for the recent extension of the GSP.

The nations exchanged $19.72 billion worth of goods between January and September of this year, a 1.85 percent year-on-year (yoy) decline, according to Trade Ministry data. US firms invested $480.1 million in 1,024 Indonesian projects from January to September, making Indonesia the eighth-highest beneficiary of private US funds, below Singapore and China. The figure marks a 36.6 percent drop from the $757.14 million invested in the same period last year as businesses cut back on investment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SOURCE: The Jakarta Post, Indonesia Thu, November 19,

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