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February 20, 2009

Australia, Indonesia to press forward with free trade pact

The trade ministers of Australia and Indonesia agreed in talks here Wednesday to move forward with plans for a free trade agreement between the two countries, reported Kyodo news agency.

"We agreed that an FTA which covers trade, investment and capacity-building issues would be the best way to build a new economic partnership between Indonesia and Australia," Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean said after talks with his Indonesian counterpart Mari Pangestu.

Crean said he and Pangestu welcomed the final draft of a joint feasibility study on the proposed Indonesia-Australia FTA. The draft report suggests a bilateral FTA that is comprehensive in scope would provide worthwhile gains for both countries, building on the foundation of the soon-to-be-signed regional FTA involving Australia, New Zealand and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"Both governments must now consider the study. I will discuss the next steps with my ministerial colleagues, including undertaking a process of further public consultation," Crean said.

With total two-way trade in 2007-08 of A$10.3 billion ($6.6 billion), Indonesia is Australia's fourth largest trading partner in Asean and its 13th largest trading partner overall, according to figures released by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Australia exported A$4 billion of merchandise goods and close to A$1 billion in services to Indonesia in the same period, while its investment there was valued at A$3.4 billion at the end of 2007.

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