Deal will open doors to trade

By Country News

The long-awaited free-trade deal between Australia and Indonesia was expected to be signed on Monday, as Country News was going to press.

The landmark deal is Indonesia’s first major agreement of its type and will give favourable treatment to Australian frozen meats, live cattle, feed grains, dairy and citrus.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, accompanied by Defence Industry Minister Steven Ciobo, was due to sign the deal alongside his Indonesian counterpart Enggartiasto Lukita in Jakarta on Monday.

‘‘This is a good deal for Indonesia in terms of growing their economic opportunity and investment,’’ Senator Birmingham said on Friday before flying to Jakarta.

‘‘This is a great opportunity for our education providers, health and financial services providers as well, to be able to have easier access into Indonesia, better regulatory conditions to do business.’’

The free-trade deal was meant to be signed last year, with negotiations concluding in August.

But the signing was delayed when Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the government was considering moving Australia’s Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.

Despite senior Indonesian ministers saying the pact was on hold until Australia clarified its position, Mr Morrison and Senator Birmingham maintained the matters were not related.

Mr Morrison said on Twitter the deal would take the economic relationship between the nations to a new level.

His predecessor Malcolm Turnbull said he was also pleased the agreement was to be signed ‘‘at last’’.

‘‘Indonesia is a vitally important friend, neighbour and partner for Australia,’’ he wrote on Twitter.

The signing will come ahead of the April 17 Indonesian election and Australia’s mid-May federal poll.

The deal opens up opportunities for businesses — the two countries are both in the world’s top 20 economies but neither is in each other’s top 10 trading partners.

Mr Morrison went to Jakarta in August on his first overseas trip as prime minister, meeting Indonesian President Joko Widodo and signing an agreement to conclude the deal.