President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo meets with Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena in Colombo on Wednesday (24/01). (Photo courtesy of the Cabinet Secretariat)

Indonesia, Sri Lanka Agree to Start Free Trade Negotiations


JANUARY 25, 2018

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena agreed to focus bilateral cooperation on trade, economy and capacity building during a meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Wednesday (24/01).

During the meeting, Jokowi pushed for a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, and said that negotiations should begin with trade in goods, according to a statement issued by the Cabinet Secretariat.

"Since Indonesia has this type of agreements with several countries, President Jokowi expects the negotiations to conclude in less than two years," the statement said.

Indonesia and Sri Lanka also agreed to form a working group on trade and investment, which will take take part in  the negotiations.

The two countries will strengthen their cooperation in capacity building with regard to disaster management and education, and will hold regular consultancy meetings of their foreign ministers.

"As our countries are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, we need to strengthen cooperation in increasing emergency preparedness and response," Jokowi said, as quoted in the statement.

This year marks the 66th anniversary of the establishment of Indonesia-Sri Lanka diplomatic relations. Jokowi's visit this week is the first by an Indonesian president to Sri Lanka in almost 40 years.

During the meeting, both leaders also discussed the possibility of cooperation in the railway sector. Indonesian locomotive maker INKA has reportedly already held technical meetings with its Sri Lankan counterpart.

"We hope that President Jokowi's visit will result in a concrete follow-up in the form of exports of passenger and cargo railway carriages," Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said, as quoted in another statement issued by the Cabinet Secretariat.

According to the minister, Jokowi also called on Indonesian state-owned companies to participate in infrastructure development in Sri Lanka.

Jokowi and Sirisena witnessed the signing of three memoranda of understanding for cooperation in aeronautical and maritime search and rescue, higher education and combating drug trafficking.

On the sidelines of Jokowi's visit,  the Indonesian and Sri Lankan chambers of commerce and industry also signed a cooperation agreement.

In his meeting with Sirisena, Jokowi said that cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region must be open, transparent, inclusive and following the rules of international law.

"This cooperation must also be based on mutual trust, confidence building and dialogue," Jokowi said.

Jokowi emphasized the importance of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in developing the region. Both Indonesia and Sri Lanka are members of the organization.

Jokowi's visit to South Asia this week is in line with Indonesia's 2018 foreign policy's focus on the Indo-Pacific region.