Pence announces $10 bn in deals on Indonesia trip

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a business forum in Jakarta, Indonesia. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 April 2017
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Pence announces $10 bn in deals on Indonesia trip

JAKARTA: US Vice President Mike Pence announced $10 billion in deals between American and Indonesian companies during a visit to Jakarta Friday, as he pushed for greater access to Southeast Asia’s top economy.
Eleven deals were signed. Energy firm Exxon Mobil, General Electric, and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin were among the American companies involved in the agreements.
“These deals represent the tremendous excitement that American companies feel about opportunities in Indonesia,” said Pence.
Exxon Mobil will sell liquefied natural gas to Indonesian state-owned energy company Pertamina, General Electric will provide technology for Indonesian power plants, while Lockheed Martin will provide new weapons systems for F-16 fighter jets.
During the visit to Indonesia, his latest stop on an Asia tour, Pence has been pushing to help US firms who want to do business in Indonesia — one of several countries targeted by Donald Trump’s administration for running a trade surplus with the US.
During a meeting at a Jakarta hotel Friday where the deals were announced, Pence told business leaders that he and President Joko Widodo had “very candidly and very respectfully” discussed how to improve market access for US firms in Indonesia when they held talks.
He said earlier on the visit that Washington wanted to “break down barriers” for exporters seeking to enter the Indonesian market.
Indonesia has long been targeted by foreign investors, as it has enjoyed robust growth in recent years, driven by exports of its key commodities even as many developed countries have struggled.
The country of 255 million people is home to a rapidly growing middle class and an army of consumers whose spending power is increasing.
But Indonesia can be a notoriously difficult place to do business due to nationalistic policies, complex bureaucracy and problems with corruption, and foreign firms have often run into trouble.
The latest example of a US company facing problems is a row between the government and mining giant Freeport-McMoRan, which runs a huge gold and copper mine in Indonesia, after authorities demanded they obtain a new license to operate.
Pence departed Indonesia Friday for the next stop on his tour, Australia. He has already visited South Korea and Japan on a trip that is aimed at smoothing some of the rougher edges of Trump’s rhetoric.


At least 50 dead in India train disaster: police

Updated 47 min 7 sec ago
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At least 50 dead in India train disaster: police

AMRITSAR, India: At least 50 people were killed Friday after a train plowed into revellers celebrating a Hindu festival in northern India, police said, the latest major accident on the country's crumbling rail network.
A crowd had gathered on railway tracks in the city of Amritsar in Punjab state to watch a fireworks show marking the Dussehra festival when the train barrelled down the line at speed.
"There are more than 50 dead. The priority now is to take the injured to the hospital," Amritsar city police commissioner S. S. Srivastava told reporters.
More than 60 people who were injured were being given emergency treatment at various hospitals across the city, he added.
An AFP photographer at the scene said some victims had lost limbs in the accident while others suffered head wounds.
"There was a lot of noise as firecrackers were being let off and it appears they (victims) were unable to hear the approaching train," a police official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
An eyewitness told a local TV channel there was "utter commotion" when the crowds noticed the train "coming very fast" towards them.
"Everyone was running helter-skelter and suddenly the train crashed into the crowds of people," he said.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered an investigation into the deadly accident and announced a monetary compensation of 500,000 rupees ($6800) each to the family of the victims.
"We have reports that some 50-60 people have died. We have asked all hospitals to remain open through the night so that the injured can be treated," Singh told reporters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was extremely saddened by the "heart-wrenching tragedy" and asked officials to provide immediate assistance to the injured.
Some relatives of the deceased blamed the authorities for allowing a "big function" to be held next to the railway track.
An eyewitness said people were taking pictures on their mobile phones and "they were not given any warning that they should not stand on the tracks."
India's railway network is the world's fourth largest and remains the main form of travel in the vast country, but it is poorly funded and deadly accidents often occur.
The country is home to hundreds of railway crossings that are unmanned and particularly accident prone, with people often ignoring oncoming train warnings.
A 2012 government report described the loss of 15,000 passengers to rail accidents every year in India as a "massacre".
Premier Modi has pledged $137 billion over five years to modernise the crumbling network.
Railway minister Piyush Goyal said Friday he was cancelling his trip to the US and returning to India immediately.
"May God give strength to the bereaved and injured," Goyal tweeted.
"Railways is providing all possible assistance at the site."
Millions of Hindus celebrate the Dussehra festival with the burning of giant effigies, symbolising the triumph of good over evil.