Australian PM Begins Visit to Indonesia 

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese arrived in Jakarta Sunday to begin a three-day visit to Indonesia after pledging his intention to deepen cooperation between the two countries.

The visit is his first bilateral trip since being sworn in as Australia’s 31st prime minister on May 23.

Albanese, accompanied by several cabinet ministers including Foreign Minister Penny Wong, is scheduled to meet President Joko Widodo on Monday.

“Indonesia is one of our closest neighbors, which is why I committed to visiting as soon as possible,” Albanese said in a press release before the trip.

“I look forward to building our ties further, including to revitalize our trade relationship and promote climate, infrastructure and energy cooperation,” he said.

Wong had previously suggested Australia’s new government would give greater priority to Southeast Asia, and Indonesia in particular.

Scott Morrison was the last Australian prime minister to visit Indonesia in 2019.

In a press briefing Thursday, the Indonesian foreign ministry’s director of East Asia and the Pacific noted it had become a tradition for newly elected Australian prime ministers to choose Southeast Asia’s largest economy as one of their first countries to visit.

Santo Darmosumarto said the talks would focus on post-Covid economic recovery and the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement — a trade deal ratified in 2020 that has not been fully implemented due to the pandemic.

The leaders will also discuss the G-20, chaired this year by Indonesia, Darmosumarto said.

An analyst said that Australia-Indonesia ties can be volatile.

“The Australia-Indonesia’s relationship can be tumultuous, like a rollercoaster,” Teuku Rezasyah, an international relations expert from Padjadjaran University told AFP Sunday.

He said the ties could be at risk if Australia pushed its neighbor towards alignment or “forced Indonesia to be a part of AUKUS,” referring to the security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Indonesia is one of several Asian countries that expressed concerns about the AUKUS pact, with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi warning it could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region.

Australia is also part of the Quad, an alliance designed to counter China ‘s push for dominance across the Asia-Pacific region.

Indonesia, however, favors a non-aligned position when it comes to contests between superpowers.

In 2018-19, total trade between Australia and Indonesia was worth $12.3 billion.

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