Indonesia, U.S. revive bilateral trade and investment talks

Original Publication Date: 
1 April, 2005

Indonesia and the United States met and revived bilateral talks on trade and investment here on Friday -- a move that could lead to free trade negotiations between the two countries.

Barbara Weisel, Assistant Deputy of U.S. Trade Representative, told a press conference after the meeting that the U.S. delegation was satisfied with the discussion and was looking forward to meeting the Indonesian delegation again for further talks in Washington in the near future.

'We have just had a very productive discussion, which we have not done for a long time at this level and in this detail,' Weisel said.

Indonesia's Minister of Trade Mari E. Pangestu also welcomed the meeting.

'It has been years since we had significant bilateral talks. The last one we had was in November 2002, but it was not significant,' Mari told reporters.

Among other things, the meeting discussed the stalled talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and Indonesia's proposal for a post-tsunami trade relief package, capacity building assistance to develop Indonesian trade, as well as the recent Infrastructure Summit.

Traditionally, the U.S. requires its partners to establish a TIFA as a requirement before starting any possible free trade negotiation.

Special assistant to the minister Halida Miljani said that Indonesia would study whether or not these preliminary talks would lead to actual FTA negotiations.

'We will study the cost and benefits of a bilateral FTA,' said Halida, who is a former Indonesian ambassador to the WTO and is now heads the delegation for the bilateral talks.

According to Weisel, whether or not Friday's talks end up in free trade negotiations, the U.S. would continue to strengthen dialog to solve bilateral issues between the two nations.

She said issues like Intellectual Property Rights in Indonesia, agricultural products, development in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and multilateral talks in the World Trade Organization (WTO) all arose during the talk.

The U.S. has been Indonesia's major market for decades.

Indonesia's non oil and gas exports to the U.S. reached US$10.2 billion last year, or up by about 13 percent from $9.8 billion in 2003.

The meeting was actually part of the Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative launched by President George W. Bush.

Through the initiative, President Bush offers opportunities to establish FTAs to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations members -- particularly those who already had TIFA and WTO membership.