Trump's Indonesia business partner says can help with U.S. ties 'if needed'

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who is building luxury resorts to be managed by the Trump group, said on Friday his relationship with the U.S. president has been focused on business but he could help ties between the nations “if needed”.

Chief Executive of Indonesia's MNC Group Hary Tanoesoedibjo looks on during his visit to the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX) in Jakarta, Indonesia February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta

Tanoesoedibjo, 51, is chairman and chief executive of MNC Group, which is building two luxury resorts in Indonesia that will be managed by the Trump Hotel Collection, a subsidiary of the Trump Organization founded by U.S. President Donald Trump.

There had been speculation in Indonesia that Tanoesoedibjo, who attended Trump’s inauguration in Washington last month, could act as a bridge between Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, and the United States.

“With the Trump Organization, the capacity is a business relationship. It’s still the same before and after Trump became president,” Tanoesoedibjo said.

“But if needed, I can try to help,” he said.

Several leaders in Indonesia have expressed concerns over President Trump’s tough immigration stance.

Trump signed an executive order a week ago that temporarily suspended the U.S. refugee program and stopped visits to the United States for 90 days by citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Indonesia was not among the countries facing restrictions but Vice President Jusuf Kalla has said the policies could raise “suspicion” toward Muslims. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi expressed deep regrets over plans for “extreme vetting” of people from some Muslim countries entering the United States.

Most of Indonesia’s 220 million Muslims practice a moderate form of Islam, although the Southeast Asian nation has some vocal Islamist groups and has suffered deadly militant attacks in the past.

Indonesia has traditionally close relations with the United States and many Indonesians think highly of former President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Jakarta.

In an interview with Reuters ahead of Trump’s inauguration, Tanoesoedibjo dismissed concerns by ethics officials that Trump’s overseas business deals might be vulnerable to conflicts of interest.

Trump has said the company would not make any new deals abroad while he is president and that his two older sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, would take over his business roles.

Tanoesoedibjo has his own political ambitions and has said he would decide before the end of next year whether to run in Indonesia’s 2019 presidential election.

He told reporters on Friday that his MNC Group conglomerate, which has businesses including property and media, is planning total investments worth 30 trillion rupiah ($2.25 billion) over the next five years.

($1 = 13,355.00 rupiah)

Reporting by Eveline Danubrata and Cindy Silviana; Editing by Ed Davies and Paul Tait