US says talks on Indonesia trade preference to conclude soon

A worker unloads palm fruit at a palm oil plantation on Sumatra island. (Reuters)
Updated 06 November 2019

US says talks on Indonesia trade preference to conclude soon

JAKARTA: US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Wednesday Washington’s review of a trade preference facility for Indonesia would conclude soon, and predicted “far more investment” by US companies in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has been reviewing Indonesia’s eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) facility for more than a year due to concerns about market access for US goods, services and investment.

Speaking after meetings with Indonesian ministers and ahead of a meeting with President Joko Widodo, Ross said both sides had agreed to step up efforts to conclude the review.

“We are comfortable and confident that very quickly (the outstanding issues) could be resolved,” Ross told reporters in the Indonesian capital.

“I think we’ll see far more investment from American companies and far more bilateral trade than exist right now.”

The GSP program gives privileged trade status to developing economies. By retaining GSP and opening up more market access both ways, Indonesia and the US aim to more than double their trade in the next five years to $60 billion, Indonesian Chief Economic Affairs Minister Airlangga Hartarto said.

Total two-way trade was worth $28.6 billion last year, according to Indonesian Trade Ministry data.

“We want to open access for our furniture and textiles and we have programs to import more cotton and wheat from the US,” Hartarto said.

Some 80 percent of the negotiations for the GSP facility, which reduces duties on $2 billion of Indonesian exports, have been completed, he said, adding that talks should be wrapped up before Christmas.

US companies including automotive firm Tesla and conglomerate Honeywell were seeking business opportunities, and Jakarta had promised improvements in the investment climate, Hartarto said.

South Korea seeks arrest of Samsung heir in succession probe

Updated 04 June 2020

South Korea seeks arrest of Samsung heir in succession probe

  • Jay Y. Lee faces a return to jail just a little over two years after being released from detention

SEOUL: South Korean prosecutors have requested an arrest warrant against Samsung Group heir Jay Y. Lee, they said on Thursday, in the investigation of a controversial 2015 merger and alleged accounting fraud in a suspected bid to aid his succession plans.
The move spells fresh trouble for Lee, who, if arrested, faces a return to jail just a little over two years after being released from detention in February 2018.
Lee already faces trial on a charge of bribery aimed at winning support to succeed ailing group patriarch Lee Kun-hee, and which involved former President Park Geun-hye, and spent a year in detention until the bribery case was suspended in 2018.
Prosecutors said they sought Lee’s arrest on suspicions of stock price manipulation and audit rule violations, among other offenses.
In a statement, Lee’s lawyers expressed “deep regret” at the prosecution’s decision to seek his arrest, adding that he had fully cooperated with the investigation while Samsung was going through management crises.
Prosecutors have been investigating suspected accounting fraud at drug company Samsung Biologics after the Korean financial watchdog complained the firm’s value had been inflated by $3.7 billion in 2015.
Prosecutors contend the violation helped boost the value of its major owner, Cheil Industries, which counted Lee as its top shareholder, and merged with Samsung C&T, a de facto holding firm, Yonhap news agency said.
Samsung requested an outside review of the investigation to weigh the validity of the indictment and the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office is following the necessary procedures, it said in a statement.
Last month, prosecutors questioned Lee, 51, over the latest investigation. He also apologized for a series of controversies around his succession planning.
Lee’s year in detention followed separate charges that he bribed Park to win government support for the 2015 merger which helped tighten his control of South Korea’s top conglomerate.