Indonesia steps up cultural diplomacy to boost trade, investment

Hendarsyah Tarmizi in Davos/The Jakarta Post
Asia News Network

Davos (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Aside from its active involvement in business meetings and panel discussions, Indonesia will also use "cultural diplomacy" to promote trade, investment and tourism during the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland this week.

The Trade Ministry, the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) and the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry jointly held an event at the Morosani Hotel on Thursday not only to feature the country's culture, but also showcase its fashion and beautiful heritage such as batik, jewelry and beauty products.

The cultural show, often regarded as an important part of cultural diplomacy, aimed to take the advantage of the presence of over 2,500 government and business leaders at the WEF meeting.

The cultural event, held under the theme "Remarkable Indonesia", drew over 300 government officials and business leaders from different countries. At least seven trade ministers from Indonesia's trading partners, including Australia and the US, also took part in the cultural gathering.

WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab, World Trade Organization (WTO) director general Pascal Lamy and former Timor Leste president Ramos Horta also attended the cultural show, the second held during the annual WEF gathering.

Indonesian business leaders such as Garuda Indonesia president director Emirsyah Satar, Astra International president director Prijono Sugiarto, James Riady of the Lippo Group and Anindya Bakrie of the Bakrie Group were also present at the cultural gathering, which featured famous Indonesian dances such as the dynamic saman dance from Aceh and Bali's garuda dance.

Indonesian celebrities such as Miss Indonesia Andi Natassa and well-known actress Prisia Nasution were also involved in the gathering.

Besides traditional dances and modern music performances, the guests also enjoyed iconic culinary offerings such as nasi goreng (fried rice) and chicken satay.

BKPM chairman Chatib Basri said that Indonesia should not rely only on formal business approaches such as business talks and meetings between private sector players or government officials to promote trade, investment and tourism.

"There should be another approach, such as a cultural show, to promote the Indonesian brand, especially to those who are still not familiar yet with Indonesia," he said, adding that the WEF forum's ability to attract thousands of government officials and business leaders made it the right venue for such an event.

Informal gatherings such as cultural shows would complement trade promotion efforts carried out through formal talks or negotiations, he said.

Although foreign direct investment (FDI) realization in Indonesia in 2012 exceeded the figure recorded in 2011, more efforts were needed to further attract foreign investors to do business in the country, he added.

"We still need more investments to further strengthen our manufacturing sector, especially those [industries] producing higher added-value goods," he said.

Throughout January-December last year, Indonesia realized total investments of 313.2 trillion rupiah (US$32.5 billion), surpassing its annual target of 283.5 trillion rupiah, BKPM reported.

According to BKPM, Southeast Asia's largest economy accumulated 164.2 trillion rupiah in FDI in the first nine months of the year, keeping it on track to achieve its annual target of 206.8 trillion rupiah.

Meanwhile, Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said that using cultural diplomacy had become one of the important approaches his ministry was taking in promoting Indonesian products overseas.

In the future, his office would use a combination of trade exhibitions and cultural shows in promoting the country's exports, Gita said, adding that the strategy should become part of his office's export promotion program, especially in reviving exports to the country's major trading partners.

Meanwhile, Yasmin Wirjawan, the minister's wife and a member of the National Handcraft Council, was actively involved in preparing the mini expo held during Indonesian night. She said that all the products displayed were examples of how Indonesian heritage and traditions had been revived for the contemporary culture of today.

"The products featured in this exhibition have been hand-crafted to show the longevity of wisdom that has been passed from one generation to another," she said.

*US$1=9,645 rupiah