Australia targets March signing of stalled Indonesia trade deal

17 February, 2019 12:00 AM printer

SYDNEY: Australia said Friday a long-awaited trade deal with Indonesia will be signed in March, following months of diplomatic tension over Canberra's contentious plan to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

The multi-billion-dollar deal will include improved access for Australian cattle and sheep farmers to Indonesia's 260 million people, while Australian universities, health providers and miners will also benefit from easier entry to southeast Asia's biggest economy, reports AFP.

Greater access to the Australian market is expected to spur Indonesia's automotive and textile industries, and boost exports of timber, electronic and medicinal goods.

"This a strong deal for both our countries, which will increase the two-way flow of trade and investment, creating more opportunities for farmers, businesses and economic development," Australia's minister for trade Simon Birmingham told AFP.

Bilateral trade was worth US$11.7 billion in 2017.

The deal has been in negotiations since 2010 and was expected to be signed before the end of last year before it stalled when Prime Minister Scott Morrison proposed the relocation of Australia's embassy to Jerusalem.

Morrison first floated the shift in October, ahead of a critical by-election in a Sydney suburb with a sizeable Jewish population.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, was angered by the proposal.

Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.

Most nations have avoided moving embassies there to prevent inflaming peace talks on the city's final status -- until Trump unilaterally moved the US embassy early last year.

In December, Morrison formally recognised west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but said the contentious embassy shift from Tel Aviv will not occur until a peace settlement is achieved.


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