Building the Relationship
    Category: Issues & Ideas By : Tyler Stuart Read : 1122 Date : Friday, October 17, 2014 - 01:08:51

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    Arriving in Jakarta last November, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Blake handed his credentials to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on January 30. A career diplomat, Blake has served as the U.S Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Blake starts his three-year posting in a significant time in Indonesia’s history, with Indonesia’s rising profile in the global community. The interview was held in late June in a temporary facility called the Embassy Annex—which used to be the headquarters for an oil and gas company. Blake discussed with Forbes Indonesia his efforts to strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and Indonesia.

    What are your goals, and how do you plan to achieve them?
    First of all, to try to promote further trade and investment between the United States and Indonesia, because that is going to help create jobs for people in both of our countries. Second, we want to work very hard on climate change, particularly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And third, we want to work very hard to expand people-to-people ties, particularly in education, where we think we have
    a wonderful opportunity to expand the number of Indonesian students who are going to study in the United States, expand the partnerships between American universities and their Indonesian counterparts, and hopefully encourage more Americans to come here and study, as well.

    What do you see as the main challenges during your posting here?
    The main challenges to operating here for us, and for many U.S. companies, is the complexity of decision-making—where in many cases you have multiple ministries that have to make a decision, in some cases you have districts and provinces that also have a say in a given decision. So this process requires patience and persistence, but I think the companies that are here, and certainly the Embassy, have acquired the skills and the knowledge to understand how the system works, and we have some of our most successful companies here as a result.

    A new U.S. embassy is being built. How will the new building help the embassy?
    I think the new embassy is a building that all Indonesians are going to be very proud of. It’s going to be a LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certified building that shows our interest in working with Indonesia to promote renewable energy, to promote very strong building efficiency standards, and we certainly want to model that in the buildings that we are building. It will also be a wonderful public diplomacy space. So it will add to our already tremendous public diplomacy efforts underway, and it will give us
    a great place right in the middle of town to host functions.