Jakarta and Canberra finally sign trade agreement

Jakarta: Indonesia and Australia signed a long-awaited trade deal after months of diplomatic tension over Canberra’s contentious plan to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

Indonesian trade minister Enggartiasto Lukita and his Austra­lian counterpart Simon Birmingham wrapped up the multi-­billion-dollar agreement in Jakarta, some nine years after negotiations first started.

The pact will include improved access for Australian livestock farmers to Indonesia’s 260 million people, while Australian varsities, health providers and miners will also benefit from easier entry to South-East Asia’s biggest economy.

Greater access to Australia’s market is expected to spur Indonesia’s automotive and textile industries, and boost exports of timber, electronics and medicinal goods.

Bilateral trade was worth US$11.7bil (RM47.68bil) in 2017, but Indonesia is only Australia’s 13th-largest trading partner and the economic relationship has been viewed as underdone.

Both ministers touted the deal as indicative of deepening ties between the nations, which have butted heads on foreign policy issues, including Australia’s hardline policy on asylum seekers.

Birmingham said the deal marked a “new chapter of cooperation” between the two neighbours.

“The signing of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement brings our nations closer together than ever,” Birmingham told reporters.

Lukita said the signing had the potential to transform the economy of both countries.

“Today is definitely the brightest moment of the Indonesia-Australia relationship,” he said.

The deal was in negotiation since 2010 and was expected to be signed at last year’s end, but it stalled when Prime Minister Scott Morrison proposed the relocation of Australia’s embassy to Jerusalem. — AFP