The Jakarta Post
Canada is committed to intensifying its partnership with Indonesia, the biggest economy in Southeast Asia, by expanding relations in a number of areas such as infrastructure development, education and regional security, and stepping up its investment in the process.
More than 80 Indonesian and Canadian officials, business executives, experts and academics gathered for the Indonesia-Canada bilateral forum on Tuesday and Wednesday, intending to explore opportunities to strengthen bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
Canadian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Daniel Jean attended the forum organized by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Canada's Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).
Participants discussed potential partnerships in the fields of maritime security, transport infrastructure and energy, as well as capacity building and education.
'We realize that Canada has not been as visible in Indonesia as it used to be. Our bilateral efforts are already there in small numbers, but the main challenge now will be on how to upscale our relations from what we already have,' CIGI distinguished fellow and global security and politics program director Fen Hampson told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Currently, Canada's main investments in Indonesia are in the mining sector, wood pulp sector and the services sector, particularly in insurance: Canadian insurance company Manulife has already established a presence in Indonesia.
Hampson added that Canadian expertise in transport infrastructure may be able to help Indonesia develop its railways, ports and aviation sector, with Canadian aerospace firm Bombardier able to help with the latter.
'There is a desire to invest in the transport infrastructure sector,' he said.
Maritime security is also a sector in which Canada aims to cooperate with Indonesia, with defense technology cooperation and joint coast guard training being considered.
Meanwhile, CIGI distinguished fellow and former Canadian deputy foreign minister Len Edwards added that the cooperation could be helped by the fact that Canada experiences almost the same problems as Indonesia, and has knowledge in dealing with them.
'Canada has had problems with illegal fishing by foreign countries, as well as an illegal immigrant problem, in the past. Our experience with conflict management can be shared for the benefit of this relationship,' Edwards told the Post.
Edwards explained that possible reasons for Canada's relative inactivity in the region were due to the fact that its domestic politics got in the way of exploring international relations further.
'We need to diversify our trade partners and no longer become too dependent on US trade if we want to achieve the prosperity we want. Canada needs to be a player in the emerging world and therefore forge better relationships with emerging powers,' he added.
Trade figures between Canada and Indonesia reached US$2.6 billion in 2014, a decrease from the $2.8 billion figure in 2013. Wheat, potassium and wood pulp remain Canada's main exports to Indonesia.
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