11 Apr 2012

Indonesia for trade, Burma for politics – on tour with Mr Cameron

We are in sweltering Jakarta on the latest leg of the PM’s Asian trade tour.

It’s being emphasised that the expected last leg of the tour – Burma – is NOT a trade trip but a political trip added on, just in case anyone thought the PM was trying to jump the gun on EU sanctions which have yet to be lifted on Burma. Business folk on the trip will merely look in on cultural events there. There are some strong voices raised against lifting sanctions for fear that the military regime (now in civilian suits and now sharing Parliament with some newly elected New Democracy members) could easily fall back into old ways.

For now though the focus is on Indonesia. This massive, growing economy accounts for 0.2% of UK exports. There’s some stuff on UK trade here in today’s FT

The PM laid a wreath at the memorial for veterans of Indonesia’s war of liberation against Japan – soldiers’ helmets rest on each grave.

There’s a press conference and interviews coming up, so more later.

Update @ 11am:

The PM has just held a press conference with the Indonesian President. The president said the earthquake near Aceh is 8.5 not 8.9, and is 10km deep and 500km west of Aceh. He said there is “no threat of tsunami” although inhabitants have been moved to higher ground. I have no knowledge of whether this is habitual gloss in these circunstances or hard realism.

One of the triggers for Indonesia’s growth in military spending, itself one of the main reasons for David Cameron brining British defence contractors here, was the inadequacy of the country’s military the last time an earthquake brought devestation to the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day 2004.

We’re waiting to hear if the rest of David Cameron’s trip goes ahead as planned. It could be that it has to change if the governments he was going to meet are caught up in relief and rescue. The earthquake was reported to have been felt in Malaysia, one of the country’s the PM was heading to.

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