New Australian PM affirms deeper ties on Indonesia visit

New Australian PM affirms deeper ties on Indonesia visit
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reacts while talking with Indonesian President Joko Widodo during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Bogor, Indonesia, June 6, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 June 2022

New Australian PM affirms deeper ties on Indonesia visit

New Australian PM affirms deeper ties on Indonesia visit
  • The trip is the new Australian PM’s first bilateral visit since inauguration last month
  • Albanese and Widodo discussed strengthening trade, investment relations

JAKARTA: Indonesia and Australia expressed on Monday hopes and commitments to strengthen relations, as a meeting between their two leaders raised expectations for a refresh in bilateral ties.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo had hosted Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the state palace in Bogor, West Java, on the latter’s first bilateral visit since his inauguration last month. A livestream of the visit showed them riding bamboo bicycles around the compound.

In a joint press statement, Widodo and Albanese addressed the importance of expanding the two countries’ trade and investment relationship and highlighted their ambition to better utilize the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. They also discussed Australia’s $144 million offer for a climate and infrastructure partnership with Indonesia.

“I hope the implementation of IA-CEPA, especially in regards with opportunities for Indonesian nationals to work in Australia, can be further increased,” Widodo said.

“I gladly welcome PM Albanese’s initiative with regards to infrastructure and climate resilience partnership between Indonesia and Australia, with the initial funding of AU$ 200 million.” The funding is equivalent to $144 million.

Albanese said his government will prioritize the revitalization of Indonesia-Australia trade and investment relations, while also offering Australian technical expertise to help Indonesia with its plan to build a green and high-tech new capital city in East Kalimantan on Borneo island.

“Australia’s relationship with Indonesia is one of our most important … Our work together continues to grow in scale and in sophistication,” Albanese said.

The meeting also saw the two leaders discussing security, education and regional cooperation.

Ian Wilson, a lecturer in politics and security studies at Australia’s Murdoch University whose research has focused on Indonesia, said these initial discussions convey a significant shift in Indonesia-Australia ties and highlighted the presence of Indonesian-speaking members in Albanese’s cabinet.

“I think that speaks well to taking the region seriously, taking Indonesia seriously as our neighbor, and that we’re working to give a fresh start on the relationship after what’s been a difficult decade or so,” Wilson said, alluding to the ups and downs of the neighbors’ relations over the years.

Fitriani, senior researcher at the international relations department of Jakarta-based think tank CSIS, referred to Albanese’s decision to visit Indonesia as “an honor.”

“The first state visit of an elected prime minister gives a signal of the prime minister’s foreign policy commitment and priorities,” Fitriani told Arab News.

“The meeting will strengthen the relations between Indonesia and Australia.”