Remarks by Ambassador Blake at the AmCham Annual General Meeting, Jakarta

AmCham President Brian Arnold
Outgoing Managing Director Andrew White
Incoming Managing Director Lin Neumann
AmCham Board of Governors
AmCham membership

I am honored to speak today at the American Chamber of Commerce’s Annual General Meeting.  This meeting falls at an opportune time.  It marks my own one year anniversary, during what turned out to be a year of ups and downs during which I had a chance to work with most of you and to learn what an outstanding organization AmCham is.

It also marks Andrew White’s last AGM as AmCham’s Managing Director.  I know I speak for everyone when I thank Andrew for his creative leadership in driving AmCham to new heights as the leading foreign Chamber, and for his friendship.  Thank you Andrew.

I am also excited to welcome Lin Neumann, no stranger to Indonesia or AmCham, as the incoming Managing Director and look forward to working closely with him and all of you in the year ahead.

Today’s AGM also marks our first under President Jokowi.  I wanted to share with you my initial impressions of the new Administration, the challenges that lay ahead, and some of my personal goals for 2015.

But first, I want to underscore how I, along with my whole Embassy team, value my relationship with AmCham and its members.

Let me be clear:  other than providing for the security of official and non-official Americans, the first priority of any Ambassador anywhere, the business of our Embassy is business.  I and my great team are here to help you grow your businesses, resolve problems and help publicize the important each ways each of your companies contributes to Indonesia’s prosperity.

Our ability to partner and work together as “Team USA” enables us to broaden our reach beyond what the U.S. government, the AmCham, or its members can do on its own.

Despite a challenging year in 2014 during which most government decision-making ground to a halt, we were able to achieve a lot together.

The successful November 12 U.S.-Indonesia Investment Summit represented a capstone event marking AmCham as a strong and respected voice promoting U.S. commercial interests and pursuing common sense trade and investment policies that bolster economic growth while leveling the playing field for all companies.

I was pleased we were able to launch and lead productive dialogues with Coordinating Minister Chairul Tanjung and others.

I was happy to lead missions for companies already to learn about new opportunities in Bandung, Balikpapan and Jogja.

But the most important development clearly was President Jokowi’s election, marking a further strengthening of Indonesia’s democracy, but also the promise of improved governance, improved infrastructure, streamlined and more centralized decision-making, and a more welcoming regime for foreign investment.

President Obama has also made clear that Indonesia’s success is in all of our interest.  In his meeting with President Jokowi during APEC in Beijing, President Obama said the United States wants to be a strong partner with Indonesia to help it achieve its goals and ambitious reform agenda.

The new administration will certainly face challenges as it works to continue Indonesia’s robust economic growth.

But I am confident that the outlook is positive with President Jokowi and his Cabinet.  I have met most of the members of the Cabinet who matter to us to develop my personal relations and trust with them.

I have been impressed by their focus, their determination to get things done, their improved coordination, and their mandate to reduce red tape, speed up the issuance of licenses and permits, cut down on overlapping ministerial regulations, and overcome central and provincial government bottlenecks.

The Ministers have responded positively to my requests for increased and early stakeholder engagement, and regular dialogues both to resolve problems and seize opportunities.

We should not underestimate the hurdles ahead.  These are big tasks that will not be accomplished overnight.  President Jokowi will need to tackle some serious challenges, including rule-of-law and corruption, both issues of central importance to the U.S. government and business communities alike.

Initial moves by President Jokowi, like his early efforts to clean up the oil and gas sector, his reduction of fuel subsidies and his appointment of business people—and many U.S. educated officials—, augur well.

Looking to 2015, I have a running list of my own priorities that I would like to share with you.  They include:

  •  Securing a date for President Jokowi to visit Washington, D.C. next year;
  • Developing a strong delegation of Indonesian business leaders to attend the SelectUSA Conference focused on inward investment into the United States in Washington, D.C., March 23-24;
  • Scheduling and then holding regular policy dialogues with the key Ministers, including what I hope can be a twice yearly meeting with Coordinating Minister Djalil with the U.S. and other foreign Chambers;

Continuing to lead AmCham visits to other parts of Indonesia:  Batam next, with Surabaya to follow.  I welcome input on other locations that would be useful to all of you.

Encouraging the Jokowi Administration to intensify stakeholder engagement, like through an on-line portal for draft regulations, providing a forum for input.

Holding a Joint Commission meeting that is chaired by Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.  We are revising the process to make it more focused on the key interests of the moment so we can achieve practical progress on the matters of greatest importance.

Establishing an internship program—a collaboration between AmCham and the Embassy— where future business leaders, engineers, and scientists who are pursuing Masters degrees in America through the Ministry of Finance’s prestigious LPDP scholarship program, spend their summer break back here in Indonesia as interns in your companies.

In closing, the partnership between the U.S. Embassy and AmCham Indonesia has never been stronger.  We have a significant opportunity to work together to help shape the new Administration’s game plan.

I am confident that we can partner together, both to create jobs and other opportunities for the American people, but also to advance our partnership with Indonesia to help President Jokowi and his team succeed in their efforts to achieve higher and inclusive growth, improve infrastructure, ensure a welcoming climate for foreign investment, streamline decision-making, and improve education and skills development.

I look forward to working closely with you in 2015.   Thank you.

As prepared.