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The Indonesian–Thai Chamber of Commerce opens its doors for greater business cooperation between both countries.

By Federico Brandi

Diplomatic and business relations between Indonesia and Thailand have endured for more than 60 years, with continued and fruitful bilateral cooperation.

The two countries formally established diplomatic relations back in the 1950s and, thanks to the lack of any major issue between them, they have been able to focus on positive cooperation in different sectors, such as trade, education, and security.

Indonesia’s Ambassador in Thailand, HE Lufti Rauf, believes that even more can be done. He is an experienced diplomat with a friendly and proactive attitude who has studied and worked around the world in countries such as New Zealand, Australia, and Slovakia.

He is one of the promoters of a new joint initiative by the Indonesian and Thai business communities: the creation of the Indonesia–Thai Chamber of Commerce (INTCC) in Bangkok, which started its membership activities in November as the first-ever chamber in both countries. Its purpose: to further strengthen relations in business and related fields, to assist Indonesian businesspeople who invest in Thailand, and to help Thai companies that would like to expand in Indonesia. “The private sectors of the two countries have always been active, but sometimes lack the arena to enhance and further develop the investments or simply catch the opportunities,” Rauf said.

What is the current outlook of Indonesian–Thai relationships when it comes to investment, trade, and business?
– Let me start saying that Indonesia and Thailand are really fortunate. We have long and mutually beneficial relationships which give us the opportunity to focus more on enhancing them instead of trying to resolve any issue. Furthermore, Indonesia and Thailand are the first and second largest economies in ASEAN, respectively, encompassing more than 50 percent of ASEAN’s aggregate economy. The numbers show also growing relations between the two countries. Total trade is already well above USD 19 billion, increasing significantly from the USD 8.5 billion in 2009. In addition, Thailand’s investments in Indonesia in the first half of 2013 reached USD 16.2 million.
The two countries have common prosperity goals and complementary economies, and I believe the business relations between the two countries will continue to flourish.

How will the INTCC benefit both countries?
– There are a lot of private and public stakeholders involved in business. The INTCC aims to be the hub of information and networking to allow speedy contact and solutions to be developed among relevant stakeholders that will facilitate business relations. In doing so, the INTCC will have to foster close relations with relevant public and private organizations in both Indonesia and Thailand.
With the INTCC facilitation, we expect business relations between both countries to become easier, simpler, and faster.

In what way is the Indonesian Embassy in Thailand involved in the INTCC?
– The driving force of the INTCC is the business community. However, they need cooperation and liaisons with authorities and organizations in both countries. In this regard, the Embassy stands to support the INTCC in performing its function to smooth business cooperation.

The INTCC also decided to create the Junior INTCC Team (JINT) to support its activities. What is its role?
– The future is in the hands of our young generations, and they must have the opportunity to contribute. The idea behind the creation of the JINT is to give them the chance to gain work experience and get acquainted with the business processes and networking opportunities that the INTCC brings.
Otherwise, the fresh ideas, hard work, and dedication of our young members will benefit the INTCC. The JINT will be much more visible and active at the future chamber’s activities.

What is the context of the INTCC within the ASEAN framework, particularly considering the ASEAN 2015’s objectives?
– I believe that in order to achieve the goals of ASEAN 2015, which among others include the creation of a single market, ASEAN countries should further increase intra-regional trade, which is now standing around 25 percent of ASEAN total trade. In this regard, the INTCC plays an important role to enhance intra-ASEAN trade.

What has been the response of the business community to the INTCC?
– I have been informed that the enthusiasm of the business sector is quite high in both countries. I view this as an important sign that the stakeholders need the INTCC, and its establishment provides the right chance to further increase the flourishing economic relations between the two countries. The INTCC draws businesses from several sectors. Among these are oil & gas, mining, petrochemicals, agriculture, logistics, and tourism.

Thailand and Indonesia are the two largest economies of Southeast Asia, and this joint initiative can be a first step to make easier and smoother the creation of the ASEAN Business Community by the end of 2015. It is also a good example of cooperation between business and institutions, aiming for a common goal of development and prosperity.