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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        23  April 2011

Chinese Prime Minister to visit Indonesia

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Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao will sign a series of agreements next week covering everything from banking and energy to palm oil and infrastructure during visits to Malaysia and Indonesia, a senior diplomat said on Thursday.

Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue said deals in Malaysia would include telecommunications and infrastructure construction cooperation, while in Indonesia there would be a greater number of documents signed, including on banking.

“The bank cooperation will probably involve many banks, not just one or two,” Hu said. “There will also be some financing [deals] for major projects.”

Other agreements to be signed in Indonesia will cover palm oil plantations and coal-fired power plants. He gave no firm details on any of the deals.

China already has close trade, economic and cultural ties with both countries. In 2009, China signed currency swaps with Malaysia and Indonesia, as part of moves to give the yuan a bigger international role.

According to Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), Chinese investment in the country during the first quarter of this year reached $28.4 million, 10th most among foreign investors. Chinese investment in Indonesia last year was $173 million, which put it in 11th place.

Zhang Qiyue, the Chinese ambassador to Indonesia, said earlier this month that there were more than 1,000 Chinese companies ready to register in Indonesia at the end of last year, with contracts estimated at $9.7 billion.

Wen will be in Malaysia from April 27 to 28 before flying to Indonesia. He plans to return to China on April 30.

Sofyan Wanandi, chairman of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), welcomed China’s investment but noted growing sentiment against cheap Chinese goods flooding Indonesian markets.

“I see this as a positive investment in infrastructure and manufacturing,” he said.

Erwin Aksa, chairman of the Indonesian Young Entrepreneurs Association (Hipmi), said China needed to increase its investment here, especially in areas such as infrastructure and manufacturing, to balance Indonesia’s trade deficit and improve domestic competitiveness.

“China’s specialty is in infrastructure projects, but we also need increased investment in manufacturing,” he said.

Indonesia is often seen as just an exporter of raw materials, Erwin said, so China should invest more in developing domestic industry to give it added value.

“Ideally, China should be among the top five foreign investors in Indonesia,” he said.

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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