Indonesia, Australia sign long-awaited trade deal

Indonesia’s trade minister Enggartiasto Lukita, right, said the deal could transform the economies of both countries. (AFP)
Updated 04 March 2019
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Indonesia, Australia sign long-awaited trade deal

  • The countries finally signed the free trade deal that was initiated around nine years ago
  • Australia’s proposal to move their embassy to Jerusalem delayed the signing of the trade deal

JAKARTA: Indonesia and Australia on Monday signed a long-awaited trade deal after months of diplomatic tension over Canberra’s contentious plan to move its embassy to Jerusalem.
Indonesian trade minister Enggartiasto Lukita and his Australian counterpart Simon Birmingham wrapped up the multi-billion-dollar agreement in Jakarta, some nine years after negotiations first started.
The pact will include improved access for Australian cattle and sheep farmers to Indonesia’s 260 million people, while Australian universities, health providers and miners will also benefit from easier entry to Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
Greater access to the Australian market is expected to spur Indonesia’s automotive and textile industries, and boost exports of timber, electronics and medicinal goods.
Bilateral trade was worth $11.7 billion in 2017, but Indonesia is only Australia’s 13th-largest trading partner and the economic relationship has been viewed as underdone.
Both ministers touted the deal as indicative of deepening ties between the two countries, which have occasionally butted heads on foreign policy issues, including Australia’s hard-line policy on asylum seekers.
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 told reporters.
Lukita said the signing had the potential to transform the economy of both countries.
“Today is definitely the brightest moment on of the Indonesia-Australia relationship,” he said.
The deal has been in negotiation since 2010 and was expected to be signed before the end of last year, but it stalled when Prime Minister Scott Morrison proposed the relocation of Australia’s embassy to Jerusalem.
Morrison first floated the shift in October, ahead of a critical by-election in a Sydney suburb with a sizeable Jewish population. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, was angered by the proposal.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Most nations have avoided moving embassies there to prevent inflaming peace talks on the city’s final status — until President Donald Trump unilaterally moved the US embassy early last year.
In December, Morrison formally recognized west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but said the contentious embassy shift from Tel Aviv will not occur until a peace settlement is achieved.
The Australian PM stood by his decision despite outcry from neighboring Muslim countries. Indonesia in response simply said it had noted the decision.
The trade deal also comes just ahead of national polls in which Indonesian President Joko Widodo is pushing his economic record in the battle for re-election.


Samsung delays Galaxy Fold media events in China

Updated 22 April 2019
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Samsung delays Galaxy Fold media events in China

  • Instead of plaudits ahead of the phone’s launch on April 26 in the US, Samsung has instead received brickbats
  • The hashtag #foldgate trended on Twitter because of the smartphone issues

SEOUL: Smartphone maker Samsung postponed media events for its Galaxy Fold planned for this week in Hong Kong and Shanghai, a company official said, days after reviewers of the foldable handset reported defective samples.
The official did not elaborate on reasons or rescheduling.
Instead of plaudits ahead of the phone’s launch on April 26 in the United States, the South Korean conglomerate has been blighted by technology journalists reporting breaks, bulges and blinking screens after using their samples for as little as a day.
Samsung said it received “a few” reports of damage to the displays of samples of the $1,980 handset, raising the specter of the combustible Galaxy Note 7 three years ago which the firm ultimately pulled from shelves at massive cost.
The reviewers’ reports of broken screens went viral online and prompted the creation of hashtag #foldgate on Twitter.
Samsung has hailed the folding design as the future in a field that has seen few surprises since Apple’s iPhone in 2007. Chinese rival Huawei Technologies has also announced a folding handset, the Mate X.
The Samsung official on Monday said it had no change to its previously announced release date in the United States.
It plans to begin South Korean and European sales in May, and Chinese sales from an undisclosed date.