Indonesia says Australia's travel warning is harming economy

Jakarta (Antara News) - Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu complained on Thursday that Australia was harming her nation's economy and deterring new investment by warning travelers of the risk of terrorist attacks there.

In its travel advisory serice, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urges Australians to reconsider visiting Indonesia because of intelligence "indicating that terrorists are in the advanced stages of planning attacks against Western interests," AFP reported.

Indonesia has long been critical of the advice and blamed it for a significant drop in tourism in the wake of bombings in Bali in 2002 and 2005.

The 2002 Bali attacks killed 202 people including 88 Australians.

During an official visit Thursday, Pangestu again raised the issue.

"The Australian side has promised to review it. We hope that the review process will continue," she told reporters.

"The travel warnings affect tourism, ... business travel and most importantly education exchange," she added. "There needs to be a greater understanding of each other's situation, our differences and an understanding of each other's internal processes."

Indonesian businesses had complained that the warning system was deterring new investment, she added.

"On education exchange, it means students who are studying Indonesian, teachers who are teaching Indonesian, (are having problems) with insurance coverage," Pangestu said. "We know that some of them are going to Malaysia."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the safety of Australians would always be its top priority.

"All travel advisories are kept under constant review," a spokesman said.

"Our primary concern is to ensure the safety and security of Australians." (*)
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