Pence in Indonesia With Trade on Agenda


United States Vice President Mike Pence made his maiden visit to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta on Thursday, amid expectations of a clearer USA foreign policy stance for the region.

Pence in Jakarta also echoed Trump's calls for fair trade deals, saying that any economic relationship between the US and Indonesia should create jobs in both countries and result in a "win-win" scenario.

Indonesia is on Trump's trade hit list of nations that he considers the losing out to in trade, and US company Freeport-McMoran Inc., which operates the world's largest copper mine in the Indonesian province of Papua, is in a protracted dispute with the Indonesian government.

Nevertheless, Pence was due to witness the signing of more than $10 billion in memoranda of understanding with US companies in Indonesia on Friday, a White House official said.

"His objective is basically to meet with our allies and close partners in the region as part of the new administration reaching out and getting the benefit of the views and insight of our partners about the region", Carouso told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Friday.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, has itself been hit by a series of deadly attacks over the past 15 years, led by militants affiliated with al Qaeda and more recently by Islamic State. In your nation as in mine, religion unifies - it doesn't divide.

Pence, flanked by his family, also toured the biggest mosque in Indonesia, which can accommodate up to 200,000 people, was designed by a protestant, and sits near a Catholic cathedral in central Jakarta.

Pence said the United States would continue working with Indonesia to combat terrorism, and said the country's form of Islam should serve as an example to other nations.

Pence is visiting Indonesia a day after the Indonesian capital Jakarta elected a new Muslim governor who rode a wave of conservative Islamist to defeat an incumbent Christian on trial charged with blasphemy against the Koran.

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But it was somewhat awkward timing, given only the night before at the mosque, hardline cleric Rizieq Shibab and leader of the notorious Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) had welcomed and personally congratulated the victor of Jakarta's gubernatorial election Anies Baswedan.

After meeting with representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at the regional bloc's headquarters in Jakarta yesterday, Pence announced Trump would attend three summits in Asia in November, a further sign that his administration is seeking to reassure regional allies.

Exxon Mobil will sell liquefied natural gas to Indonesian state-owned energy company Pertamina, General Electric will provide technology for Indonesian power plants, while Lockheed Martin will provide new weapons systems for F-16 fighter jets.

Official data from the country's ministry puts total trade between the two countries at $23.44billion in 2016 - with Indonesia recording a surplus of $8.84billion. Indonesia mainly exports textiles, footwear and seafood and mainly imports aircraft, machinery and soybeans from America.

Sydneysiders are being warned to expect traffic disruptions and an increased police presence as security ramps up for US Vice President Mike Pence's weekend visit.

After his talks with Widodo, Pence also said the U.S. was committed to building a stronger defense partnership with Indonesia to combat terrorism, and guaranteeing freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where Indonesian and Chinese vessels have recently clashed. Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, but has overlapping claims with a number of Southeast Asian countries.

"As the second- and third-largest democracies in the world, our two countries share many common values including freedom, the rule of law, human rights and religious diversity", Pence said.

U.S. firms have faced a tough business climate in Indonesia, with companies like Google and mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Inc. getting embroiled in disputes with authorities there. Jakarta also scrubbed JP Morgan from its list of primary bond dealers after what was deemed a negative research report.