ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
RI to revive talks on partnership deals with EU
Indonesian trade officials will soon meet their EU counterparts to revive long-delayed negotiations on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) to boost trade and investment.
Trade Ministry director general for international trade cooperation Bachrul Chairi said in Jakarta on Tuesday that the meeting would be held following a meeting between Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel and European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, recently.
“Our concern is that other ASEAN countries are in the final stages of negotiations [on free trade agreements with the EU]. If we don’t follow suit, we will lose our market share in Europe,” Bachrul told The Jakarta Post after a press briefing on Tuesday.
At present, the 28-member bloc is negotiating or has finalized free trade agreements with some Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Bachrul said that among others, fisheries product exports could be enhanced with the CEPA, as those products still faced high import duties despite enjoying tariff cuts under the generalized system of preference.
Both parties had aimed to formally launch the CEPA talks by the end of 2012, but the plan was delayed due to stumbling blocks including tariff reductions, service liberalization and restrictions on foreign ownership.
Separately, EU Ambassador to Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and ASEAN Olof Skoog expected Indonesia to be “ambitious enough” to discuss issues that hampered the progress of the talks.
“We see this [agreement] as a win-win deal for both. Indonesia has a lot to gain because the EU is its biggest export market and it could be bigger if there’s greater market access,” Skoog told the Post after an ASEAN-EU Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting in Jakarta last Wednesday and Thursday.
“We stand ready to begin, provided we can reach the level of ambition,” he added.
The EU is now Indonesia’s third-largest trading partner and the second-top foreign investor. Non-oil and gas exports from Indonesia to the European market rose slightly by 0.87 percent to US$16.81 billion last year from 2013 amid a persisting eurozone crisis, according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).
Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) deputy chairman for trade and international economic cooperation Chris Kanter underlined that bilateral trade between Indonesia and the EU was complementary in nature, thereby such an agreement would be vital to facilitate exchanges of goods and services as well as expand economic activity.
“There are many Indonesian commodities and goods, including agriculture products, which penetrate the [European] market but are hampered by regulations in the EU. We expect the CEPA will not only lower tariffs, but also reduce such non-tariff barriers,” Chris said over the phone.
Minister Rachmat earlier said Indonesia had received approval from Japan to review the two countries’ economic partnership agreement.
Indonesia demands a review as it claims it benefits less than expected from the deal, but no follow-up has yet materialized.
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