The Jakarta Post
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s visit to Australia from Nov. 6 to 8 is expected to focus on economic and maritime cooperation despite the Foreign Ministry ruling out earlier proposals for joint patrols with Australia in the South China Sea.
“The visit is aimed at strengthening the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement [IACEPA] and the visit will focus on economic and maritime cooperation,” Edi Yusup, the Foreign Ministry’s East Asia and Pacific director, said on Thursday.
He added that Jokowi’s visit was being made at Australia’s invitation and was a reciprocal visit as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had visited Indonesia last November.
The visit will also follow up on the recent meetings between the respective foreign and defense ministers of Indonesia and Australia in Bali, which emphasized maritime cooperation.
Regarding earlier reports that Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu had proposed joint patrols in the South China Sea with Australia, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said: “We can only have bilateral cooperation within our own territories.”
Australia is not a claimant in the South China Sea where several ASEAN countries and Japan have overlapping claims with China.
Indonesia is also officially not a claimant, but a skirmish this year with Chinese vessels occurred off the Natuna Islands, which China recognizes as Indonesian territory.
Apart from stressing improved cooperation in counterterrorism and deradicalization, the joint press release from the bilateral meeting in Bali between Australia and Indonesia’s defense and foreign ministers raised the need to seek ways to improve stability in the South China and Sulu seas.
During the visit, Jokowi will meet Prime Minister Turnbull, Australian Governor General Peter Cosgrove and Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Jokowi will also address the Australian parliament and meet representatives of the Australian business community.
The visit will also discuss food security cooperation, particularly regarding the beef and cattle industry, in which Indonesia is pushing for greater collaboration in cattle breeding to ensure sustainability.
Edi said both sides would try to speed up talks on the IACEPA, which is expected to boost bilateral trade.
“In the meeting, we’ll emphasize the IACEPA [negotiations], which should be completed by the end of 2017,” he said.
According to data from the Trade Ministry, Indonesia’s trade with Australia reached US$8.5 billion in 2015, in which Indonesia had a $1.1 billion deficit.
This year, Indonesia’s trade with Australia had reached $5.5 billion as of August.
The President’s entourage will include Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi, Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution, Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita, Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) head Thomas Lembong, and Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf) head Triawan Munaf. (sha)
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