VP Pence arrives in Australia, last stop in Asia

Posted April 22, 2017

His trip to Australia is the first by a senior official in President Trump's administration. Washington had billed Pence's visit to Jakarta as a booster for a strategic partnership between the world's second- and third-largest democracies, but a raft of bilateral disputes with USA companies could sap the goodwill from his trip.

US Vice President Mike Pence (left) shakes hands with Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla during a business forum in Jakarta o Friday.

The speaker of Indonesia's House of Representatives, Setya Novanto, who Trump described as "one of the most powerful men and a great man", made a weird appearance at a Trump press conference in NY in late 2015.

Amid tight security, Mr Pence touched down on Friday night for the final leg of his Asia-Pacific tour before departing for Hawaii on Monday.

"We want [the US] commitments to ASEAN on issues like South China Sea disputes and tensions on the Korean Peninsula", Rahmat said.

"As members of the business community, you can help us identify the barriers we need to break down", Pence said, referring to many businesspeople in the audience.

"These deals represent the tremendous excitement that American companies feel about opportunities in Indonesia", said Pence.

The vice president praised Indonesia for its moderate form of Islam and said the two countries would continue to cooperate on combating terrorism.

Morgan Stanley Q1 Profit & Revenue Blow Away Expectations
Bank of America Corp., by contrast, posted stronger trading revenue that helped fuel a 40 percent surge in first-quarter profit. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climbed 0.3 percent to 23,905.35 and Australia's S&P ASX 200 edged 0.1 percent higher to 5,812.30.

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.

Google's row concerns payment of back taxes and fines worth hundreds of millions of dollars, while Freeport's standoff with the Indonesian government over terms of a mining contract has crippled operations at its mammoth copper and gold mine in the eastern part of the country.

While key issues like North Korea, Syria, trade and Australia's plan to send asylum seeker refugees to the United States will be on the table for discussion, observers believe Pence's main role is to facilitate a detente between Trump and Turnbull.

Widodo, who wants more foreign investment as he seeks to boost Southeast Asia's top economy, said the leaders had focused on "the United States commitment to enhance the strategic partnership with Indonesia, focusing on cooperation and investment".

But Pence foreshadowed some reworking of the commercial and economic relationship saying that USA exporters should face a level playing field.

In recent weeks, US President Donald Trump has been making nice with the leaders of China and Japan after ruffling their feathers during last year's election campaign.

Still, Indonesia has plenty of protectionist trade policies that disadvantage U.S. exporters, say analysts. Other examples are Lockheed Martin that will provide an advanced weapons targeting system for Indonesia's F-16 fighter jets, General Electric Co that will build electrical infrastructure, and Honeywell that will supply turboprop engines to Indonesian aerospace firm Dirgantara.