Indonesia, Australia Mull Free Trade Agreement

JAKARTA ~ Indonesian and Australian leaders are to consider carrying out a feasibility study on drafting a free trade agreement (FTA), their trade ministers said this week.

A group of experts working under a trade and investment framework created in 2005 recommended during a visit by Australian Trade Minister Warren Truss that the neighbors launch a study into a bilateral FTA, the minister said.

“After a feasibility study, we will be able to reach an agreement that will be in the interest of both sides,” Truss told a press briefing with his Indonesian counterpart, Mari Pangestu.

He said the recommendation would be taken to the countries’ leaders for consideration.

Indonesia and Australia have been holding annual meetings between their trade ministers since 2000, with the last in Canberra in 2006.

Truss said that even though trade had been increasing between the two nations, compared with other Asian nations their cooperation was being left behind.

“There is potential for more to be done to help trade growth and to ensure that both countries benefit from each other,” he said.

Trade between Australia and Indonesia has grown steadily in recent years, with current annual two-way trade worth about AUS$10.4 billion (US$8.8 billion).

Indonesia enjoys a merchandise trade surplus with Australia of $135 million. Its major exports include crude petroleum, non-monetary gold, paper and wood.

Indonesia’s major Australian imports include wheat, sugar, education services, aluminium, cotton and live animals.

Truss was accompanied by 35 business leaders during his three-day visit to Jakarta.

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