(Adds comments from Widodo on free trade deal, background on
two-way trade value)
By Harry Pearl
SYDNEY Feb 26 Australia and Indonesia said on
Sunday that full military ties between the two countries had
been restored, after Indonesia’s military suspended cooperation
in January because of "insulting" teaching material found at an
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made the announcement
alongside Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who arrived in
Australia on Saturday for his first visit as president.
“President Widodo and I have agreed to full restoration of
defence cooperation, training exchanges and activities,”
Turnbull said at a news conference in Sydney.
Widodo’s visit to Australia comes less than two months after
military ties were suspended, an event that sparked a minor
diplomatic spat and led to an apology from Australia’s army
chief in February. Military cooperation between the two
countries has ranged from joint training and counterterrorism
cooperation to border protection.
The “insulting” material suggested that Indonesia's Papua
province should be independent and mocked the nation's state
Indonesia and Australia have a history of patchy ties, but
both leaders were keen on Sunday to emphasise their commitment
to a strong relationship.
“That robust relationship can be established when both
countries have respect for each other’s territorial integrity,
non-interference into the domestic affairs of each other and the
ability to develop a mutually beneficial partnership,” Widodo
While the primary focus of the visit was on security and
economic issues, including the finalisation of a bilateral free
trade deal by the end of the year, talks touched on tourism,
cyber security and social links.
Widodo met Australian business leaders on Saturday, telling
them that investor confidence in Indonesia was strong and
reassuring them that Indonesia was a stable country in which to
Following one-on-one talks, Turnbull said tariffs would be
cut for Australian sugar and Indonesian pesticides and
herbicides. He also praised changes to the export rules for live
Two-way trade between Australia and Indonesia was worth
$15.3 billion in 2015-16, according to Australia’s Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Widodo said he was confident that a free trade deal would be
finalised this year.
“I have conveyed to Prime Minister Turnbull some of the key
issues," he said. "First, is the removal of barriers to trade,
tariffs and non-tariffs for Indonesian products such as
Indonesia’s paper and palm oil."
Widodo told The Australian newspaper this week he would like
to see joint patrols with Australia in the South China Sea if
they did not further inflame tensions with China.
China - which claims almost the entire sea region - irked
Indonesia last year by saying the two countries had "overlapping
claims" to waters close to them, an area Indonesia calls the
The leaders stopped short of announcing joint patrols on
Sunday, but stressed the importance of resolving disputes
peacefully and in accordance to international law.
“As maritime nations and trading nations, Australia and
Indonesia are natural partners with common interests,” Turnbull
Collaboration on counterterrorism, especially the return of
foreign fighters from the Syrian and Iraq conflict zone, would
continue, Turnbull said.
(Reporting by Harry Pearl; Editing by Kim Coghill)