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Suryo Suliston on Australia-Indonesia trade opportunities
Jim Middleton speaks to the chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, Suryo Sulisto.

Suryo Sulisto is chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and was a member of President Yudhoyono's delegation in Darwin.
JIM MIDDELTON: The president and the Prime Minister vowed to increase two-way trade between Australia and Indonesia to $15 billion a year by the year 2015. Given that trade is already at above $10 billion and growing I think on last report at 15 per cent a year, that does not seem to be a particularly ambitious target, does it?

SURYO SULISTO: I don't believe so because I think the potentials that we can offer each other are certainly much, much greater. I think that, for instance, you're doing $17 billion trade with Thailand, we're a much bigger country than Thailand. So I believe that there's something that's not really ambitious.

JIM MIDDELTON: Why do you think it is that the economic relationship between Australia and Indonesia has been so under done, if I can put it, through the years? When you pointed to Thailand, for example, why is it that given the closeness of the two countries, the massive population that Indonesia has, that and the resources and expertise that Australia has, why has the relationship not been realised to its full potential?

SURYO SULISTO: I believe because there are certain obstacles that we are facing in Indonesia itself, you know. For instance, we lack infrastructure and this has become one of the priority programs for the government, and there are sort of certain bureaucracy problems that we have to address, some corruptions. These are the sort of thing that we need to do to get our act together and improve internally. But I believe that once we can have it all sorted out, I'm sure that the trade between the two countries can certainly expand very fast.

JIM MIDDELTON: One of the things the president mentioned following his talks with the Australian Prime Minister was encouraging Australia to invest in eastern Indonesia. Why in particular eastern Indonesia? And what special opportunities would there be there for Australian companies, for Australian investors?

SURYO SULISTO: I think there are complementary factors here. Eastern Indonesia being a very closely - close location to Australia. The potential is great there because it's very - I should say it's the least developed part of our country and, therefore, we have these enormous opportunities there in terms of natural resources, in terms of potential in fisheries and tourism. And these are areas that I think would be very interesting to us to develop together.

JIM MIDDELTON: One other thing that Australian business leaders have pointed to me as being among the problems they face in Indonesia, is what they term uncertainty. For example, the sudden imposition of import restrictions or, for example, the export tax on coal. Do you think that this is something that Indonesia needs to sort out so that there is more certainty for investors?

SURYO SULISTO: As a businessman I totally agree with that. We would like to see more certainty, and this is something that we also advise our friends in the government, not to come up with ..

JIM MIDDELTON: Do they listen though?

SURYO SULISTO: ... policies - but you know sometimes you have agencies that are not talking to each other. And they come up with policies that they think would be good to serve only their own sectors but not considering that it might impact the other sectors.

JIM MIDDELTON: One general question rather than a business question, I hope you don't mind me asking this, but it was a point the president made quite publicly during his stay here in Darwin. He said that Australia had promised to review its travel advisories for Indonesia. How much of an irritant to Indonesians is the existence of these travel advisories? Do Indonesians see this as in some way as being patronising behaviour suggesting that Indonesia cannot look after people who visit the country?

SURYO SULISTO: Of course Australia is a very important source of visitors to Indonesia, being very close and a lot of Australians love to come to Indonesia. So it bothers us if we see, you know, travel advisories that might limit the travelling of Australian tourists to Indonesia. I think that's understandable.

So we would like to work together to see if we could improve the situation. What is it that troubles you for coming to Indonesia? And perhaps that we could work this out.

JIM MIDDELTON: Suryo Sulisto, thank you very much for your time.

SURYO SULISTO: My pleasure.
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