- Shortens his visit to handle haze, asks ministers to represent him
- Jokowi says digital economy main priority, Obama wants deeper cooperation
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PRESIDENT Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo has cut short his first state visit to the United States and returned to Indonesia to look into the increasingly critical haze situation back home, especially in Sumatera and Kalimantan.
“Due to the haze problem, I have decided to cancel my trip to San Francisco and immediately return to Indonesia,” he said in an official statement released by Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Oct 26.
Jokowi was in the United States at the invitation of US President Barack Obama, who is keen on deepening ties with Indonesia and the region.
Jokowi said the Silicon Valley mission to explore digital economy opportunities and possible cooperation between the two countries would continue, with his ministers representing him.
Communication and Information Technology Minister Rudiantara, Trade Minister Thomas Lembong, Chief of the Investment Board Franky Sibarani, and head of Creative Economy Agency Triawan Munaf will now lead the Silicon Valley mission.
The mission includes discussions on potential investments and cooperation with the Valley’s technology giants, but political observers hailed Jokowi’s decision to return to Indonesia.
“The President [Jokowi] accepted the invitation from [Obama], but has had to shorten his visit to deal with the haze problem, which is very important and urgent,” Professor of Computer Science at the ABFI Perbanas Institute Richardus Eko Indrajit told Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
While the Silicon Valley mission was very important, Jokowi’s absence was understandable, he added.
Besides the high-ranking government officials, the Indonesian delegation to Silicon Valley includes the entrepreneurs behind some of the republic’s most successful or promising technology startups.
These include transportation app startup Go-Jek founder Nadiem Makarim; e-commerce startup Tokopedia cofounder and chief executive officer William Tanuwijaya; Kaskus founder Andrew Darwis; and Traveloka founder Ferry Unardi.
“The discussions and meetings in Silicon Valley will be in good hands,” said Richardus.
Digital economy a priority
Despite the cancellation of his visit to Silicon Valley, Jokowi and Obama had already agreed to increase bilateral cooperation between the two countries in information and communication technology (ICT).
In a joint statement issued by Indonesia’s State Secretary Ministry, the two heads of state said they were aware of the opportunities and challenges on the ICT front, and stressed that technology and innovation were important components in the bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
Indonesia has great potential in the global digital economy, and “in the future, the digital economy will become one of the main priorities for economic development in Indonesia,” Jokowi said in an official statement after his hour-long meeting with Obama at the White House on Oct 26.
This was in line with his ‘Indonesia Digital Economy 2020’ vision, he said.
His message to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the digital economy was welcomed by Obama, he added.
US investment diversification
After the bilateral meeting with Obama, Jokowi also visited the US Chamber of Commerce, where 12 agreements were signed covering the energy, transportation, water conservation, Islamic banking, and manufacturing sectors.
These would result in foreign direct investments (FDIs) in Indonesia valued at US$2.4 billion, according to the Indonesian Government, as well as a US$175-million investment by Indonesia in Texas.
“90% of US investment in Indonesia is still focused on the mining sector,” Chief of Investment Board (BKPM) Franky Sibarani said an official statement obtained by DNA on Oct 26.
“The US visit [has as a] mission to introduce the potential of investment in Indonesia beyond mining, such as infrastructure, agriculture, the maritime industry, and the digital economy,” he added.
BKPM held a special session on the digital economy in an Investment Summit on Oct 26 in Washington, as part of Jokowi’s visit.
Trade Minister Thomas Lembong said the Indonesian Government plans to draft e-commerce regulations to encourage digital economy growth in Indonesia, a plan welcomed by the United States Asean Business Council (US-ABC) that he met on Oct 23.
US-ABC sees a great future for the e-commerce sector in Indonesia, and is ready to partner and participate in e-commerce development in the republic, Thomas added.
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