Arab News | 22 October 2023
Indonesia seeks free trade talks with Saudi Arabia, GCC
Jakarta: Indonesia hopes to start talks on a free trade pact with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council, a minister has said after the Indonesian president’s meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh.
Trade between the Southeast Asian nation and the Kingdom has been on the rise, increasing on average about 5 percent annually between 2018 and 2022. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s trade with GCC countries was valued at $16 billion last year, showcasing a 25 percent rise compared to 2021.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo was in Riyadh to attend the first summit of the GCC and Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Friday. Ahead of the event, he was received by the crown prince and witnessed the signing of a series of bilateral agreements.
Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan, who was part of the Indonesian delegation, said the two leaders discussed cooperation across different areas, including forming a negotiation team for the Indonesia-Saudi Arabia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.
“Saudi Arabia is always an important trade partner for Indonesia,” he said in a statement. “The meeting went very well and was positive. A number of President Jokowi’s suggestions received a swift response, related to cooperation in trade, investment, and additional Hajj quota.”
Indonesia has been seeking to enhance its trade ties with Saudi Arabia and gain a greater presence in the Middle East. Boosting relations with the Kingdom would also help it reach a trade pact with the GCC.
Hasan said that Indonesia is pushing for free trade talks with the GCC to “quickly begin at the end of this year.”