Indonesia’s democratically elected government and its growing consumer market should have U.S. businesses looking to the Southeast Asian nation for increased trade and investment, Wayne Forrest, president of the American-Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, told GlobalAltanta.

“President [Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono is the brightest light we’ve seen in many, many years in that position–he has a presence, a forward outlook and a management style very appealing to international businesses,” said Mr. Forrest, who represents more than 100 businesses at the New York-based chamber.

Mr. Forrest spoke with GlobalAtlanta after leading a June 15 business seminar on Indonesia at the Sheraton Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta.

The conference was organized by the Atlanta chapter of the Indonesian-American Chamber of Commerce-U.S. and more than 40 businesspeople from Atlanta’s Indonesian-American community attended.

Mr. Forrest was accompanied at the conference by Craig Charney, president of New York-based Charney Research, who presented the results of an “Indonesian Outlook Survey” that tracked the economic, political and international perspectives of Indonesian consumers.

Based on interviews with a cross section of 820 Indonesians, Dr. Charney said that it was likely Mr. Yudhoyono would be reelected in Indonesia’s 2009 presidential elections, representing a much more favorable business climate than 10 years ago when the country was in the midst of political revolution.

“Indonesia is back,” Dr. Charney said. “There is strong policy action and public leadership favorable to foreign direct investment and international trade,” he said, agreeing with Mr. Forrest. Indonesia underwent riots and protests in 1998 that eventually led to the resignation of autocratic President Suharto.

An increasingly stable political environment and a population of some 240 million people make the country an attractive destination for U.S. investors, especially ones working in the retail sector, Mr. Forrest told GlobalAtlanta.

In addition to retail-oriented companies, Mr. Forrest said that those companies interested in working in the organic food industry should consider Indonesia because of its fertile soil and low cost of labor, which makes working in the labor-intensive organic food industry more feasible in Indonesia than in other areas of the world.

In the same vein, Mr. Forrest said that he thought companies interested in sourcing plants for the biofuel industry would find lucrative opportunities in Indonesia’s agricultural industry.

But finding water resources and providing potable water to the country’s citizens will become an increasingly important political issue in years to come, Mr. Forrest said, noting that U.S. companies with expertise in the area look to Indonesia for business opportunities in the near future.

The country’s mining industry also presents somewhat of a challenge to investors, Mr. Forrest said, explaining that while large deposits of oil and coal exist throughout the country, provincial politics often present impediments to mining projects.

Research from the Indonesian Outlook survey supports Mr. Forrest’s prognosis of the mining industry. It found that Indonesians had more negative views than favorable ones of Denver, Colo.-based gold mining company Newmont Mining, which has investments and operations in Indonesia.

As a whole, though, Indonesians have “favorable views” of major American corporations such as Coca-Cola Co., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Microsoft Corp., according to a press release about the report.

The report also includes analyses of marketing outlooks for various types of consumer goods, attitudes towards Islam, the predominant religion in Indonesia and issues confronting the private sector as well as foreign investors.

Charney Research and CastleAsia, a business-consulting firm based in Jakarta, Indonesia, that partnered in conducting the surveys, are selling the report for $1997.

Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories
Charney Research


American-Indonesian Chamber of Commerce –
Wayne Forrest, president, (212) 687-4505