BELGIUM, INDONESIA EYE CLOSER ECONOMIC TIES

March 24, 2016, Jakarta Post

Business and government representatives from Belgium and their Indonesian counterparts plan to ink dozens of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) in various sectors, including trade, tourism and clean energy, this week in an effort to improve economic cooperation between the two countries.

Kicking off their week-long visit to Indonesia on Monday, a 300-strong Belgian delegation representing 127 Belgian companies and various government institutions will participate in a number of business gatherings and official government meetings to discuss and explore the business opportunities offered by each other.

Belgian Ambassador to Indonesia Patrick Hermann described the delegation, led by Princess Astrid, the younger sister of the current Belgian monarch, King Philippe and five national and regional ministers, as “one of the largest European economic missions to Indonesia”.

Speaking in a ceremony in Jakarta, Belgian Secretary of State for Foreign Trade Pieter de Crem elaborated on the enthusiasm of Belgian companies in investing in what he sees as ASEAN’s most prominent economy.

Throughout the week, up to 25 MoUs will probably be signed by business and government representatives from the two countries, he said.

“This mission’s aim is to set the momentum for further business in Indonesia,” De Crem said on Monday.

“Many Belgian investors and businesses were initially reluctant to do business on this side of the world, particularly because of the economic climate. What Belgian investors are looking for is to be able to invest here with as little red tape as possible.”

On the sidelines of Monday’s event, members of the delegation also met with several Indonesian officials, including Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution and Trade Minister Thomas Lembong, to discuss the potential of improving Belgian-Indonesian economic ties.

The delegation will later discuss various themes, including the development of smart cities and clean energy and issues about the transportation, maritime and tourism sectors, with their Indonesian counterparts in numerous seminars and gatherings.

Separately, Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) chairman Franky Sibarani said that up to US$132.9 million in investments from Belgium had been realized between 2010 and 2015, making the country the 27th largest source of foreign direct investment in Indonesia.

“Most Belgian companies want to get into strategic sectors such as clean energy and tourism because their expertise and experience will be relevant for developing Indonesia’s 21st century cities,” Franky told reporters at the ceremony.

“The [anticipated MoUs] will be a significant contribution [to economic cooperation] as Belgium is currently not on the list of Indonesia’s top 20 foreign investors.”

He added that Princess Astrid had also asked the BKPM to help potential Belgian business players who would be seeking assistance to plan investments in Indonesia.

The last Belgian business delegation that visited Indonesia was in 2008. It was led by then prince Philippe, who has since become the country’s king.

Indonesia itself is the 38th largest supplier of imports to Belgium.

Trade-wise, Belgium is Indonesia’s eighth largest European trade partner, with a total trade volume amounting to $1.8 billion in 2014. Despite the volume, less than 5 percent of Belgian companies export to Indonesia.

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