Jokowi plans to meet Trump in March to offer projects in Indonesia, says senior minister

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo attends an ASEAN leaders summit in Bangkok on Nov 3, 2019. Details of the planned bilateral meeting will be disclosed by the Foreign Affairs Ministry in one to two weeks' time. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Indonesian President Joko Widodo plans to travel to the United States in March to meet President Donald Trump, as South-east Asia's largest economy is boosting efforts to attract foreign investment, a senior minister said.

Details of the planned bilateral meeting, which may happen after the US-Asean meeting scheduled to take place in Las Vegas in March, will be disclosed by the Foreign Affairs Ministry in one to two weeks' time, coordinating maritime affairs and investment minister Luhut Pandjaitan told a media briefing on Tuesday (Feb 25).

The topics the two leaders would discuss include Indonesia's plan to move its capital to East Kalimantan, a project which could see American investment and assistance, and the overall investment opportunities in Indonesia.

A government source told The Straits Times in December about Mr Joko's planned visit, and that Indonesia would offer projects such as hydropower plants in North Kalimantan to the US.

The planned meeting comes as some US congressmen are seeing China's recently increasing investments in Indonesia as Jakarta shifting closer to Beijing.

Mr Luhut recently returned from Washington DC where he met Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. Mr Kushner told him Mr Trump likes the idea of Indonesia moving its capital, with a commitment of creating a green city there, where only electric vehicles will be allowed on the roads. Mr Luhut also met Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka during his trip to the US earlier this month.

"We talked about Indonesia's plan to move the capital and Jared said he wanted Jokowi-Trump meeting to discuss details on this moving capital project," Mr Luhut said.

Mr Joko is popularly known as Jokowi at home.

Other topics that would be discussed bilaterally with President Trump include the possibility of the US International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) taking part in a sovereign wealth fund that Indonesia plans to set up, with foreign investors being invited to put their money in the fund that will invest in various projects in Indonesia.

IDFC is an independent agency of the US government that provides financing for private development projects.

Mr Luhut said anyone is welcome to participate in this sovereign wealth fund, and Indonesia is expecting others like GIC, which manages Singapore's reserve, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, owned by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and New York-based investment management company BlackRock would also be interested in participating.

The sovereign wealth fund would be managed professionally and independently by fund managers and potential projects they could invest in include the planned development of Indonesia's new administrative capital and toll roads across Indonesia, Mr Luhut added.

Mr Luhut did not say if Mr Joko will discuss the US' revoking of Indonesia's status as a developing country, which would imply higher tariffs on goods from Indonesia as compared to exported goods from developing countries.

The US Trade Representative Office on Feb 10 revoked the special preferences for Indonesia and other developing countries in the World Trade Organisation, meaning that the US recognised Indonesia as a developed country, The Jakarta Post reported.

Being recognised as a developed nation means Indonesia will no longer be eligible to receive Special Differential Treatment from the WTO's Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, it added.

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