RI, S. Korea pursue more robust trade relations

Hendarsyah Tarmizi, The Jakarta Post, Seoul

Indonesia and South Korea agreed Tuesday to further deepen and widen the scope of bilateral economic relations, setting themselves the concrete target of doubling the volume of two-way trade and investment over the next five years.

In a joint statement issued following a bilateral meeting, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his counterpart Roh Moo-hyun agreed to further strengthen the joint cooperation task force established last year so that the action plans already in the pipeline can be implemented more effectively.

Yudhoyono and Moo-hyun agreed to set themselves the goal of doubling the bilateral trade volume, investment value and the number of South Korean tourists to Indonesia by the end of 2012.

The two leaders also agreed to promote the role of the private sector in the development of infrastructure in Indonesia.

"Both President Yudhoyono and President Moo-hyun are happy with the progress of the bilateral cooperation that has been achieved so far.

"The strategic partnership agreement with South Korea is among the most progressive compared to what we have with other trading partners," Dino Patti Djalal, a special advisor for international affairs and presidential spokesman, told reporters after the meeting.

He said the joint task force, which coordinates smaller task forces focused on different economic sectors, would meet regularly to monitor the progress of the ongoing cooperation agreements to make sure that all the programs would be implemented as scheduled.

The cooperation covers a wide range of business sectors including trade, and investment in energy, oil and gas, forestry, clean development mechanisms, marine and fisheries, and nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Dino said that in addition to cooperation in the economic sector, the two leaders also agreed to set up a joint defense, logistics and industrial cooperation committee to promote military cooperation.

"The committee will meet in August to study potential fields of cooperation," he said.

More than 30 action programs have been agreed on since the signing of a strategic partnership agreement during the visit of the South Korean leader to Indonesia in December.

A high-powered trade delegation from South Korea visited Indonesia in May to follow up on the business partnership agreement. During the visit, a number of memorandums of understanding (MOUs) in the oil, gas and infrastructure sectors were signed.

The letters of intent for the business deals, which will involve a total investment of up to US$8.5 billion, will also be signed in Seoul on Wednesday in the presence of the two leaders.

South Korea is Indonesia's largest trading partner, with the two-way trade volume amounting to about US$10.3 billion last year. With trade growth of 19 percent a year over the past five years, Indonesia enjoyed a surplus of about $4.48 billion last year.

The President and his delegation arrived on Monday evening in Seoul for a three-day visit.

Among those accompanying the President are Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, and Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro.

Also included in the delegation are Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik, State Minister for Youth Affairs Adhyaksa Dault and the chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin), M.S. Hidayat

The President will leave Seoul on Thursday morning for Bali, where he will meet with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
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