Siem Reap, Cambodia. With just three years until the start of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations economic community, Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan has called on the country’s businesses to engage more in the region to capitalize on a potential market and production base of around 600 million people.
In the mold of the European Union, Asean wants to establish a single market that will allow the free flow of goods, services and investment. That would create a manufacturing and market base large enough to compete with China and India.
Still, Indonesia has yet to “take ownership” of the move toward the community, the minister said. “It’s yet to appear in Indonesia that people live, breath and smell AEC,” Gita told the Jakarta Globe late on Tuesday, on the sidelines of the 44th Asean Economic Ministers Meeting in Siem Reap.
Gita said the government could take the initiative to promote the AEC, from small gestures such as displaying the Asean flag and emblem in all government offices to more elaborate efforts to infuse AEC issues in all government and business forums.
Indonesian businesses have complained of difficulties entering the markets of neighboring countries due to domestic regulation. Bank Mandiri, Indonesia’s largest lender by assets, has been fighting for years to open a subsidiary in Malaysia. Bank Mandiri is yet to get a full license.
Other companies have had more success. The Ciputra Group, founded by the nation’s property tycoon Ciputra, has a long history in Vietnam and Cambodia, operating a property business.
Ciputra Hanoi International City, Ciputra’s Group’s first venture overseas, is a satellite city comprising housing, a hotel, a hospital, commercial centers, serviced apartments, medical centers and schools.
Chatib Basri, chief of Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), said the agency was ready to help Indonesian businesses to venture overseas. “Up until now, we only focused on how to facilitate foreign investors to invest in Indonesia,” he said. “But we are now able to help businesses invest abroad.”
Chatib said that global business now involved producing parts of products all over the world. “Indonesia can do the same … and move up the value chain,” he said.
Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan, right, was among the ministers of commerce from Southeast Asia gathered in Siem Reap. Reuters Photo