October 16, 2015 – Indonesian President Joko Widodo will court tech giants Apple and Google during his first trip to the United States this month, in the hope of attracting much-needed foreign investment to revive growth in south-east Asia’s largest economy.
Mr Widodo will travel to Washington and San Francisco on a five-day trip starting on October 25 to seek investment for sustainable mining and greater internet access, a senior cabinet minister said.
Mr Widodo plans to visit Apple’s headquarters and have dinner with chief executive Tim Cook to discuss investment in Indonesia’s tin industry to ensure the metal used in iPhones and other Apple products is produced in legal mines.
Indonesia is the world’s largest tin exporter, with nearly all produced on the Bangka and Belitung islands off the coast of Sumatra.
“Apple wants to invest … in the tin industry in Bangka-Belitung,” Chief Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, who will accompany Mr Widodo on the trip, said in an interview in his office. “They want to get the tin directly from the source.”
Green groups have accused Apple of sourcing tin from suppliers that use child workers and violate environmental laws. Apple says it does not tolerate under-age labour and is dedicated to the ethical sourcing of minerals.
The President, who will mark his first year in office next week, will also visit Google’s headquarters and discuss improving wireless internet access to Papua and other remote Indonesian regions by using smart balloons.
Mr Widodo, who is also expected to meet executives from Facebook and Microsoft, wants the tech giants to team up with Indonesian universities to establish education centres that will help make the country a regional tech hub.
“We see a positive change in direction and mood of the government toward a more open investment environment,” Lin Neumann, managing director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia, said after a closed-door meeting with Indonesian ministers before the President’s US trip.
In Washington, Mr Widodo will meet executives from US mining giant Freeport-McMoRan, which is lobbying Indonesian officials to revise a law that would allow new contract negotiations to take place much earlier than now allowed.
“Invest in Indonesia, but you have to also respect the regulations in the country,” Mr Pandjaitan said. “We don’t want to disturb any existing contract. But when the contract expires, then it belongs to us.”
Mr Widodo will also meet US President Barack Obama and congressional leaders to discuss rising tensions in the South China Sea and the fight to contain Islamic State.
“Indonesia can play a significant role on the IS issue and be a mediator in conflicts involving Muslim countries like Palestine,” Mr Pandjaitan said.