JAKARTA, INDONESIA (AP) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese yesterday looked to move beyond regional issues that have been a key part of his trips abroad by promoting the importance of building stronger economic ties with neighbouring Indonesia.
The visit was only Albanese’s second overseas trip since his inauguration two weeks ago and underscores the importance that Australia places on its sometimes fractious relationship with Indonesia, its closest major neighbour.
Albanese talked about the importance of expanding the two countries’ trade and investment relationship, highlighting their ambition to better utilise the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. They also discussed Australia’s proposed USD200 million climate and infrastructure fund with Indonesia.
After meeting with Widodo, Albanese said in a joint news conference that Indonesia is on track to be one of the world’s five largest economies.
“Realising our investment relationship is a priority for my government,” Albanese said, “and it’s why we plan to work with Indonesia to realise the potential of the Indonesia Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.”
He also offered Australian assistance to help with the design and construction of Indonesia’s capital – which is being relocated from Jakarta to the island of Borneo – and pledged to deliver an additional USD470 million within four years to support bilateral and regional development assistance programmes in Southeast Asia.
But he did not bring up the thorny issue in which his Indonesian counterpart President Joko Widodo at a virtual meeting with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last October expressed concern after Australia, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) announced a trilateral security agreement, dubbed AUKUS, under which Australia would acquire nuclear-powered submarines. Widodo said the deal could spark an arms race.
Some ASEAN nations fear the pact could escalate tensions.