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.


France to send reinforcements to Italy border after protests

Updated 23 April 2018
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France to send reinforcements to Italy border after protests

  • Demonstrators from a far-right organization have block a mountain pass
  • Most of those crossing the Alps in recent months have been from Guinea or Ivory Coast, both former French colonies

LYON: France’s interior minister said he would send “significant” security reinforcements to the country’s Alpine border with Italy after a weekend of protest actions by pro and anti migrant groups.
Far-right groups and pro-migrant activists have turned the mountain passes by the border, which are used by migrants traveling from Italy to France, into a stage for “provocations” and “posturing,” Gerard Collomb said.
“Faced with these unacceptable actions,” the minister, whose controversial immigration law was adopted Sunday by the National Assembly, said “significant police and gendarme reinforcements” would be deployed.
The extra security forces will “ensure absolute respect for the control of the border,” he added.
Late Saturday and early Sunday, activists from a small French far-right group blocked a key mountain pass some six kilometers from the Italian border which they say is a “strategic point for illegal migrants,” prompting a furious reaction from pro-migrant activists.
On Sunday afternoon, a procession of French and Italian pro-migrant groups crossed the border at the Montgenevre Pass, alongside some 30 migrants, and had some minor scuffles with law enforcement officials on the way, a police source said.
The interior ministry said “violence was committed against security forces and a gendarme vehicle was damaged.”
Thousands of young men from francophone west Africa have trudged across the mountains over the past two years, dreaming of jobs in France.
In recent months, as news about the route — one of the lesser known on Europe’s migrant trail — filtered back to Africa, the arrivals have gained pace.
Most of those crossing the Alps in recent months have been from Guinea or Ivory Coast, both former French colonies.
Few have any hope of being granted refugee status, being considered economic migrants for fleeing a crippling lack of jobs and opportunities at home rather than war.
Collomb said the legislation passed Sunday aims for “better controlled” immigration, halving the waiting time for asylum applications to six months while also making it easier to deport those turned down as “economic” migrants.
However the legislation, criticized by rightwingers for being too soft and by leftwingers who see it as repressive, has exposed unprecedented divisions in President Emmanuel Macron’s young centrist party.