President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo (left) with Emir Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar at the Bogor Palace in West Java on Wednesday (18/10). (Antara Photo/Puspa Perwitasari)

Indonesia, Qatar Hopeful to Expand Trade in Wake of Gulf Crisis

BY :TABITA DIELA

OCTOBER 19, 2017

Jakarta. Indonesian and Qatari businesses explored potential economic cooperation in trade, infrastructure, energy and tourism during the Qatar-Indonesia Economic Forum in Jakarta on Wednesday (18/10).

The forum, organized by Qatar's Ministry of Economy and Commerce in cooperation with Indonesia's Ministry of Trade, was part of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani's itinerary during his state visit to Indonesia on Oct. 17-18.

"Indonesia and Qatar have to expand and diversify in bilateral trade, which includes products and non-traditional services as well as investments," Enggartiasto Lukita, Indonesia's trade minister, said at the forum.

Bilateral trade between both countries, however, shows a declining trend. According to the Trade Ministry, the export trend to Qatar in 2012-2016 declined by 9 percent and the import trend declined by 17.7 percent.

Exports to Qatar totaled $57.6 million last year, a 40 percent drop compared to the $96.5 million in 2015, while imports from the Gulf country increased by 17 percent to $857.6 million last year.

Enggar said Indonesia can benefit from expanding bilateral trade to Qatar — which is a non-traditional market for the archipelago — on the back of new infrastructure in both countries. As Indonesia pushes forward with its sea toll program, Qatar  has launched a new port in Doha, the country's capital, and the country is also set to hold the 2022 World Cup.

Port to Port

Pelindo II, a state-owned port operator, signed a memorandum of understanding with Qatar Ports Management Company at the forum. Both parties agreed to strengthen communication and cooperation in investment and promotion.

Indonesia's Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) also signed the first memorandum of understanding with its Qatari counterpart, promising to maintain a relationship between the business chambers.

Opportunity in Crisis

"This is the right time [for investment] but we have to find the right opportunity," Hamad Al-Mulla, Katara Hospitality chief executive, said at a panel.

Al-Mulla and representatives from 43 Qatari businesses came to Indonesia with a clear desire to strengthen economic ties wherever possible following an ongoing diplomatic crisis among Gulf Arab states.

Erwin Aksa, the vice chairman of Kadin, said the crisis can be an opportunity for Indonesian businesses to start cooperation with their counterparts in Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates broke off diplomatic ties with Qatar recently on allegations that the Middle Eastern country supports terror groups in the region and is cozy with Iran, leaving it with limited trade opportunities with neighboring states.

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