New PM hopes to seal Australia-Indonesia free trade deal in Jakarta this week

New PM hopes to seal Australia-Indonesia free trade deal in Jakarta this week article image

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to travel Jakarta this week to announce an imminent Australia-Indonesia free trade deal.

It will be his first trip overseas as PM after being sworn in last Friday.

The trade deal is expected to be signed within the next two months after officials resolved a deadlock during recent negotiations in Melbourne.

Deposed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had been planning to make the trip, but those plans were abandoned following the leadership spill.

Government officials doubted that Mr Morrison would be able to visit Jakarta so soon after taking office, but warned that any delay could jeopardise a joint announcement with the Indonesian government.

According to the ABC, Mr Morrison will now head to Indonesia on Thursday for a brief visit, where he is expected to announce the two nations have reached an in-principle agreement on a free trade deal.

Australia and Indonesia originally hoped to strike a deal before the end of last year, but the deadline passed after both sides failed to reach agreement.

The prospect of a further delay would have caused anxiety in Jakarta as its economy weakens.

The Indonesian rupiah has been falling, and president Joko Widodo is hoping the announcement will help boost the currency in international markets.

Strengthening ties

Meanwhile, Australia hopes the deal will bolster the strategic relationship between Canberra and Jakarta, while also boosting economic ties.

Australia has been pushing for a "high quality" free trade agreement, but it is understood concessions have been made to secure the deal.

Mr Turnbull had also been planning to travel to Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, where he was due to meet top leaders and officials.

It now appears that those legs of the trip have been abandoned.

He was also expected to attend the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru next month.

Newly appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Marise Payne is now expected to represent Australia at that meeting.


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