Indonesia and Australia sign long-awaited free trade deal

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After more than nine years of talks, Australia and Indonesia have signed a free trade agreement. The deal had been delayed after Australia signaled its support for Israel, sparking outcry from Muslim-majority Indonesia.

Indonesia and Australia signed a landmark free trade agreement on Monday, some nine years after negotiations first started.

Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita and his Australian counterpart Simon Birmingham signed the multi-billion-dollar Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in Jakarta.

The agreement slashes Australian tariffs on Indonesian goods to zero and gradually eliminates 94 percent of Indonesia’s tariffs on Australian goods.

Enggartiasto said the agreement was “historic for both countries.”

“This agreement is extremely beneficial for the two countries and is very comprehensive, not only in terms of trade in goods but also in terms of investment and services,” he said at a joint press conference after the signing ceremony.

Birmingham said the deal marked a “new chapter of cooperation” between the two neighbors.

“The signing of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement brings our two nations closer together than ever before,” Birmingham said.

Bilateral trade between the two countries was worth $11.7 billion ($10.3 billion) in 2017. Indonesia is Australia’s 13th-largest trading partner.

The pact will give Australian cattle and sheep farmers more access to Indonesia’s 260 million people.

Other beneficiaries include Australian universities, health providers and miners, as well as major industrial sectors in Indonesia such as the automotive, textile, footwear and agribusiness industries. 

The deal has been a long time coming, with negotiations starting in 2010 and coming to an end on August 31.

But both sides delayed signing it after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was considering moving the country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population and is a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause. It fears that any relocation of the embassy could undermine the Middle East peace process.

Australia recognized west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December, but fell short of moving its embassy there. Morrison said Australia would only do so after Israel and Palestine have agreed on a peace settlement.

AFP

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