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.


Hyundai invests $300 million to help India’s Ola battle Uber

Ola was launched in 2011 and is engaged in an aggressive battle with Uber in India’s ride-hailing market. (Reuters)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Hyundai invests $300 million to help India’s Ola battle Uber

  • Ola was launched in 2011 and is engaged in an aggressive battle with Uber in India’s ride-hailing market
  • Ola says it handles around a billion rides a year across India’s major centers

MUMBAI: Indian taxi-hailing company Ola has secured a $300-million investment from South Korean car giant Hyundai, the firms said Tuesday, providing a major boost in its fight against US giant Uber.
Ola was launched in 2011 and is engaged in an aggressive battle with Uber in India’s ride-hailing market, which is estimated to be worth around $10 billion and growing fast.
The new money, from Hyundai’s subsidiary Kia Motors, will largely be used to help Ola increase its electric vehicle fleet, the companies said in a joint statement.
“Our partnership with Ola will certainly accelerate our efforts to transform into a smart mobility solutions provider,” Hyundai executive vice chairman Chung Eui-sun said in the statement.
Bangalore-based Ola announced last year that it planned to put a million electric vehicles on India roads by 2021.
Ride-hailing apps are booming in the country despite stiff opposition from traditional taxi firms and some initial concerns about passenger safety.
Ola says it handles around a billion rides a year across India’s major centers, as well as seven cities in Australia.
In 2018, Ola also announced operations in Britain as part of a drive into other markets as competition with Uber intensifies on home turf.