JAKARTA: Saudi Arabia is Indonesia’s strategic and priority market, a top trade ministry official said on Tuesday, as Southeast Asia’s biggest economy seeks to increase its presence in the Middle East.
Trade between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia has been on the rise, increasing to $7 billion, or by about 45 percent, between January and November last year, compared to the same period the previous year.
Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan visited Riyadh last week, leading a special delegation seeking to explore untapped export potential with the Kingdom.
“Trade potential between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia is very huge and very strategic,” Didi Sumedi, director general of national export development at the Indonesian Ministry of Trade, told Arab News, adding that it “has not been maximized.”
Boosting ties with the Kingdom would also help Indonesia increase its presence in the Middle East.
“Saudi Arabia in this case is a priority because it is a strategic partner with the biggest economy in the Middle East,” Sumedi said.
Improving relations with Saudi Arabia would also help pave the way for better ties with GCC countries, as Indonesia is pushing for a trade pact with the bloc.
Indonesia signed a trade agreement with the UAE in July last year, expecting to boost its Emirates-bound exports by nearly 8 percent a year.
The agreement, which erases about 99 percent of existing tariffs, is still pending ratification by the Indonesian House of Representatives.
In Saudi Arabia, Indonesia wants to increase exports of processed food and everyday items, including paper and clothes.
“We see we can further improve trade between the two countries,” Sumedi said.
The ministry is also looking into supporting Indonesian retail businesses to open in Madinah, Makkah and Jeddah, he added.
“Our hope is that with modern shops in Saudi Arabia, Indonesian business owners, including small businesses, can easily market their products,” Sumedi said.
“This would certainly push forward our national exports as well.”