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Following in the steps of its European neighbors, dozens of Portuguese firms are visiting Indonesia to seek business partnerships and explore untapped local business opportunities.
The delegation, touted to be the biggest Portuguese business mission to the country, highlighted its new interest in Indonesia, predicted to be among the world’s 10th biggest economies within the next decade, Portuguese Ambassador to Indonesia Joaquim Moreira de Lemos said on Monday.
Last week, an Italian delegate held a business forum in Jakarta. Delegates from Denmark and Norway had talks earlier.
At present, Portuguese firms focus more on other regions, such as Europe, Africa and South America, and invest heavily in countries like Angola, Mozambique and Brazil, Lemos added.
“Portugal wants to be a part of Indonesia’s presence in order to contribute to the construction of its future. […] We would like to have the opportunity to show the excellence of what we do,” he told a business seminar at the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) office in Jakarta.
The delegation comprises 28 firms working in various areas, ranging from fish processing, pulp and paper, construction, machinery production, engineering consulting and banking, most of which have a strong overseas presence, such as Portugal’s first private bank Banco Espirito Santo, major engineering and management consultant Consulgal and intelligence security management firm Vision-Box.
Ambassador Lemos said that current bilateral trade was “unsatisfying” apparently because Indonesia was not among investment destinations for Portuguese firms despite the fact that both countries had ties dating back five centuries.
Portugal cut diplomatic ties after Indonesia invaded East Timor (a former Portugal colony and now Timor Leste) in 1975. The two countries restored ties in 1999 after East Timor gained independence through a referendum in the same year.
Bilateral trade stood at US$108.99 million last year, down 36.36 percent from a year earlier, with Indonesia exporting $81.05 million of goods and commodities and importing $27.94 million, Trade Ministry data shows.
From 2008 to 2012, there was no investment from Portuguese firms, although the country’s investment outflow to the world topped $24.6 billion within the period, according to the BKPM. The firms picked the US, Uruguay, Mozambique, Brazil and Spain as favored places to invest during that period.
Apart from boosting trade, Portuguese firms are keen to invest in Indonesia in the future as the fast-growing economy offered myriad opportunities in vast areas, particularly in infrastructure, Lemos said. Teaming up with Portuguese counterparts, Indonesian firms could also go overseas in places where a foothold had already been established by the former, Lemos added.
Indonesian Ambassador to Portugal Albert Matondang, meanwhile, said the current financial crisis in Europe, including in Portugal, could serve as a cue for businesspeople from both countries, which traditionally largely focused on neighboring countries and regions, to step up commercial ties.
“In the past, they gained more benefits with this business choice. However, with the current economic challenges, such a practice doesn’t ensure the sustainability of business,” he said.
Rogerio Monteiro Nunes, the president and CEO of Consulgal, which has expertise in design and project management of infrastructure construction, said that Indonesia presented huge business potentials for his firm because to connect its more than 17,000 islands, massive development of infrastructure would be necessary.