By Zahra Matarani and Stanley Widianto
JAKARTA, June 6 (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese heralded a deepening relationship touch bracelets with close neighbour Indonesia, pledging stronger cooperation on trade, security and climate change during his first bilateral foreign visit on Monday.
Albanese accompanied his host, President Joko Widodo, for a ride through the presidential palace in the town of Bogor on bamboo bicycles before they began their formal talks.
Stressing the importance of engaging with Southeast Asia’s largest economy, the new Australian prime minister brought a high-profile business delegation, along with Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Trade Minister Don Farrell.
“Indonesia is on track to be one of the world’s five largest economies,” said Albanese, “Revitalising our trade and investment relationship is a priority for my government.”
Albanese travelled to Japan for a meting of the Quad group of countries, which includes United States, India and Japan, the day after he was sworn into office in May.His Indonesia visit is his first for one-on-one talks with a foreign leader.
He said Australia would work to realise the potential of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) and also offer technical expertise for the development of Indonesia’s planned green, high-tech capital, Nusantara.
Albanese reiterated a A$470 million ($338.49 million) pledge over four years for development in Indonesia and the region, a A$200 million climate and infrastructure partnership with Indonesia, and the creation of a Southeast Asia office in Australia’s department of foreign affairs.
“True to my government’s ambitious climate targets, I want better access to affordable, reliable and secure clean energy right across our region, as we transition to a net zero world together,” he said.
The trip comes as Australia’s new Labor government, which ended almost a decade of conservative rule in a May 21 election, signals a greater emphasis on relations with Southeast Asia and climate change, an issue crucial to its Pacific neighbours, as it navigates ties with a more assertive China.
Albanese also pledged increased cooperation on defense, and maritime security and safety, amid rising tension between China and the United States in the Indo-Pacific, he told reporters.
Indonesia was among several Southeast Asian countries that expressed concern over a new trilateral security pact between Australia, the United States and Britain (AUKUS), that will allow Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
Australia’s new Malaysian-born foreign minister, who previously said Indonesia did not get the attention it deserved under the former administration, met Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on Sunday.
President Jokowi, as the Indonesian leader is known, emphasised the importance of the neighbours strengthening their bilateral commitments.
Jokowi reiterated the importance of the strategic economic partnership and IA-CEPA, which will allow more Indonesians to work in Australia, the recent opening of a Monash University campus in greater Jakarta, and the importance of food security and sustainability.
Albanese is also scheduled to meet Lim Jock Hoi, the Jakarta-based secretary general of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), before heading to Makassar in eastern Indonesia.(Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Martin Petty and Simon Cameron-Moore)