JAKARTA: Indonesia is looking for greater commerce with big businesses in Saudi Arabia, its trade minister said on Tuesday, as Jakarta hosted a bilateral business forum.
Trade between the Southeast Asian nation and the Kingdom has been on the rise, increasing by about 45 percent to $7 billion, between January and November last year, compared to the same period in the previous year.
But the figures are still less than the aspirations of Indonesia — the biggest economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — which is seeking a boost in trade ties with the Kingdom, and also a greater presence in the Middle East.
Indonesia’s Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan, who spoke at the inauguration of the Indonesia-Saudi Arabia Business Forum, said there was significant room for improvement.
“Indonesia has a population of nearly 280 million people, while the population of ASEAN is nearly 600 million people. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is a big country (and one of the) leading states in the Gulf region that has a population of nearly 400 million people. So, both countries have an enormous economic potential,” said Hasan.
Among the participants of the forum themed “Reinforcing Bilateral Cooperation Through Trade and Investment” were Indonesian State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir and Saudi Ambassador Faisal Abdullah Al-Amoudi, as well as top Indonesian investment and commerce officials and leading representatives of the two nations’ private sectors.
“It is hoped that the meeting of large business actors from Indonesia and Saudi Arabia will improve trade relations in various fields, produce cooperation and can create something for the benefit of both countries, as well as increase investment to an even larger scale,” Hasan said.
Improving trade relations with Saudi Arabia would also help pave the way for better ties with other GCC countries, as Indonesia has been pushing for a trade pact with the bloc.
Earlier this year, the Indonesian trade minister led a special delegation to Riyadh to explore export potential between the two countries that are both members of the Group of 20, the world’s leading rich and developing nations.
“Saudi Arabia in this case is a priority because it is a strategic partner with the biggest economy in the Middle East,” Didi Sumedi, director-general of national export development at the Indonesian Ministry of Trade, told Arab News at the time.
“Trade potential between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia is very huge and very strategic,” he said, adding that it “has not been maximized.”
Indonesia’s main exports to Saudi Arabia include palm oil and its derivatives, vehicles, fish, iron and steel.
Its main imports from the Kingdom are oil and gas products, acrylics, ethylene polymers and sulfur.