Free trade deal to ‘transform’ Australia-Indonesia business relationship

08-Nov-2018 Intellasia | SMH | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The signing of the Indonesia-Australia free trade agreement, due in Singapore next week, will “revolutionise” business relationships between the two nations according to the Australia-Indonesia Business Council.

AIBC national president Phil Turtle admitted to some nerves that the signing of the deal could be delayed, after the Morrison government flagged last month that it might move Australia’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But Turtle said he was delighted the deal was set to be signed.

Labour Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen welcomed the imminent signing of the deal, but lashed the Morrison government for putting the deal at risk with the embassy move “thought bubble”.

Fairfax Media revealed on Wednesday that the Indonesia-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement, which has been in the works for ten years, has been pencilled in for signing by the two nations’ trade ministers at the Asean conference in Singapore on November 14.

Three sources in the Indonesian government have confirmed the plan to ink the deal, though the deal will still have to be ratified by the Indonesian and Australian parliaments.

Turtle said that after a decade of delay “it’s great that in this last thrust the two governments have remained committed to seeing this through”.

“This will be a revolutionary step for Australia-Indonesia business relationships. From the Council’s point of view, It’s not so much the individual opportunities, but rather the broad range of initiatives unlocking potential across a range of sectors,” he said.

“That this agreement is on the verge of signing is a tremendous sign of goodwill, and the agreement will be transformational for the trade and investment relationship generally.”

“We had some concerns that diplomatic tensions may have led to a delay but we are pleased that this has not been the case and things seem to be progressing smoothly.”

The trade deal will boost Australian exports of beef and wheat to Indonesia and open the Indonesian market up to Australian healthcare and education providers.

Morrison and Indonesian President Joko Widodo agreed on the terms of the deal in August but following the announcement that Australia would review whether to move its Israeli embassy, there were fears that the signing could be delayed because the status of Palestine is such a sensitive issue in Indonesia.

Tensions could still flare as the April 2018 elections approach in Indonesia, particularly if the moves goes ahead, if Widodo’s opposition decides to make an issue of the deal politicallysomething they have declined to do so farand protests break out.

Bowen said that Morrison “should never have put the Indonesia FTA at risk by raising his thought bubble on moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem”.

“While signing the Indonesia FTA is important, what is just as important is what comes after that, and that’s why last week Labour has announced it will develop an Indonesia Economic Strategy similar to the report Peter Varghese did to boost economic ties with India to properly harness and take advantage of the opportunities the FTA will create.”

Shofwan Al-Banna Choiruzzad, a political expert from the University of Indonesia, said the deal could allow Australia to make use of Indonesia’s strategic position in the global supply chain and open the door wider to Asean markets.

“In Indonesia’s case, it has for instance capital and technical constraints which through the IA-CEPA Australia can provide solutions.”

Fairfax Media contacted the Morrison government for comment.


Category: Indonesia

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