President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese go for a bike ride at the Bogor Presidential Palace on June 6, 2022. (Presidential Secretariat Press Bureau/Laily Rachev)

Indonesia, Australia Pedal towards Stronger Bilateral Ties

BY :JAYANTY NADA SHOFA

JUNE 06, 2022

Jakarta. Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Monday discussed strengthening economic ties, among others, during the Australian leader’s inaugural bilateral visit to Indonesia since taking office two weeks ago.

“On bilateral issues, our meeting put high emphasis on economic ties. I conveyed the importance of expanding export access for Indonesian high value-added products, such as automotive, to the Australian market,” Jokowi told a joint press conference at Bogor Palace on Monday.

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Jokowi then talked about the maiden export of completely built-up cars to Australia earlier this year. The president was referring to the export of Toyota Fortuner cars produced by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indonesia — the local unit of the Japanese auto behemoth.

“I hope the access for export of this kind will remain open,” Jokowi said.

According to Jokowi, the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) —coupled with the comprehensive strategic status— has provided a strong foundation to bilateral relations.

“Hopefully, the implementation of IA-CEPA, particularly regarding the opportunity for Indonesian citizens to work in Australia, can be improved. This includes raising the quota for working holiday visas to 5,000 a year,” Jokowi said. 

The annual cap of work and holiday visas for Indonesia currently stands at 4,264 a year, the Australian home affairs department's official website shows. 

In his address, Jokowi lauded Australian health service company Aspen Medical’s one-billion-dollar investment to build 23 hospitals and 650 clinics in the West Java province over the course of 20 years. 

Indonesia is on track to be one of the world’s five largest economies, according to Albanese.

“Revitalizing our trade and economy partnership is a priority for my government. It is why we plan to work with Indonesia to realize the potential of IA-CEPA,” Australia’s new prime minister said. 

To this end, Albanese promised regular meetings between the respective economic ministers.

He added, “we will continue to ensure the backing of businesses on both sides. My government will work with Australian Super Funds, among our largest investors, to explore investment opportunities here in Indonesia.”

Indonesia-Australia's trade reached $12.6 billion in 2021, the Trade Ministry reported. 

Indonesia exported $3.2 billion to Australia in 2021. Indonesia's imports from Australia amounted to $9.4 billion last year, thus marking a deficit of $6.2 billion.

The IA-CEPA entered into force in July 2020. One of the key objectives of this agreement is to facilitate trade in goods by progressively eliminating or reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers.

Climate Cooperation and Green Capital Nusantara
The joint press statement also illustrates Indonesia-Australia’s climate cooperation.

Australia will provide an initial grant of A$200 million for Indonesia's climate resilience and infrastructure. Investments from Australian companies —namely iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group and solar technology company Sun Cable— are also expected to help pave the way for Indonesia’s energy transition. 

“I welcome the $10 billion investment commitment by Fortescue Metals Group in hydropower and geothermal. As well as Sun Cable’s $1.5 billion [investment] in the energy sector,” Jokowi said.

Indonesia’s plan to build a new, green capital —which will go by the name Nusantara— in East Kalimantan has also caught Australia’s attention. At the presser, Australia expressed its willingness to provide technical expertise for Indonesia’s new capital project.

“Your planned national capital Nusantara is an incredibly exciting prospect, signaling where Indonesia is headed. I am pleased to offer Australian technical expertise to help you plan a clean, green, high-tech city,” Albanese told the press conference.

Bamboo Bike Diplomacy
It is a rare sight to see Jokowi take his head-of-state guests on a bike ride. But Jokowi took the opportunity to demonstrate his bamboo bike diplomacy. Jokowi and Albanese went for a ride in Indonesia-made bamboo bicycles from the presidential palace to the Bogor Raya Park's Raasa restaurant for their tête-à-tête. 

"Riding a bike is environmentally friendly. I think we should start conveying the message of the importance of eco-friendly vehicles," Jokowi said.

According to Albanese, the bike ride portrays Indonesia-Australia's friendship.

“The president has offered to take the bike back to Australia. You will see me riding around in what might be the only bamboo bike in Canberra. It was a great experience. Every time I ride on the bike, I will remember the friendship with President Widodo,” Albanese said.

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