The Jakarta Post
As Indonesia and Colombia commemorate 40 years of diplomatic relations this year, the two countries are seeking increased connectivity between the far-flung lands, with both sides hoping to become each other’s regional trade hubs.
One historical milestone for the optimistic vision was the recent repatriation of about 366 Colombian citizens from at least 19 countries on a special flight from Jakarta by Indonesian national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia.
The repatriation was the first direct flight made by an Indonesian airline to Colombia. The effort was conducted from May 15 to May 17 with the help of the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and state-owned company PT Industri Nuklir Indonesia (INUKI).
The company and its Colombian counterparts are exploring business opportunities in the radio-pharmacy industry.
INUKI director for operations and marketing Bunjamin Noor said on Thursday that several agendas were being planned to explore opportunities in the industry, including sending INUKI’s first batch of products to the country, saying that Colombia had the potential to become the company’s hub for its Latin American regional distribution. “However, with this pandemic, we had to postpone our delivery to Colombia, but our relationship is getting stronger,” he said.
Radio-pharmacy is one of many sectors that the two countries have explored. According to the Trade Ministry’s website, Indonesia and Colombia trade a number of commodities, including manufactured goods and agricultural products. However, the significant potential has been hindered by distance and limited information exchange between business players on both sides.
Trade Ministry data shows that the trade volume between Indonesia and Colombia accounted for only US$153 million last year. Although the volume has increased 4.22 percent since 2015, the number is still low compared to other countries in the region.
With Brazil, for instance, Indonesia recorded $2.9 billion of trade last year. With Peru, Indonesia recorded $271 million of trade in the same period.
Connectivity is still a hindrance for Indonesia and Colombia – and in general for countries in Latin America – to engage in more fruitful economic interactions.
As of now, for instance, there is no direct flight from Jakarta to Bogota, although various sectors are waiting to be explored.
“A couple of days ago I received a confirmation from [Colombia’s] President Ivan Duque that he will send a result of our study regarding the opportunities for further cooperation between our countries to President Joko Widodo,” said Colombian Ambassador to Indonesia Juan Camilo Valencia in a press conference on Thursday.
“Colombia and Indonesia have a geographical advantage that allows us to become a hub to connect Latin America and Southeast Asia,” he said.
Valencia thought that, in Southeast Asia, Indonesia was the easiest country to relate with. In terms of their people, he said, the two nations had similar characteristics.
He mentioned that if Colombia wanted to expand its Southeast Asian market, it had to be through Indonesia. “Perhaps Indonesia is thinking the same way […] That’s why it’s important that Garuda Indonesia is thinking of connecting the two regions using Bogota and Jakarta or Bali.”
Separately, Darianto Harsono, the Foreign Ministry's director for South American and Caribbean affairs, said that despite the challenges, the trade relationship between the two countries was getting stronger.
“This year, the two countries will celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations. This comes at a time when governments must work more closely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, more potential has been identified,” he said.
“Our hope is that one day there will be a direct flight between Jakarta and Bogota to facilitate people-to-people and business-to-business contact.”