No dead­line for trade deal: Payne

The Australian - - THE NATION - AMANDA HODGE

For­eign Min­is­ter Marise Payne in­sists there is no end-of-year dead­line for sign­ing the free­trade agree­ment with In­done­sia de­spite spec­u­la­tion a date would be set dur­ing a meet­ing yes­ter­day with her In­done­sian coun­ter­part in Bali.

Sen­a­tor Payne and In­done­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Retno Mar­sudi ap­peared re­laxed as they emerged from a 45-minute meet­ing on the side­lines of the Bali Democ­racy Fo­rum where they briefly dis­cussed Aus­tralia’s re­view into the pos­si­ble re­lo­ca­tion of its Is­rael em­bassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

It was the sec­ond bi­lat­eral meet­ing be­tween the two min­is­ters since Scott Mor­ri­son first sug­gested Aus­tralia was open to mov­ing its em­bassy to Jerusalem, and since a flurry of text mes­sages from Ms Retno to Ms Payne warn­ing of the po­ten­tial dam­age to the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship were leaked to the me­dia.

The two also met on the side­lines of the APEC con­fer­ence in Pa­pua New Guinea last month.

Un­ease in Jakarta over the pos­si­bil­ity of an em­bassy move has strained the re­la­tion­ship and prompted the In­done­sian gov- ern­ment to put on ice the longne­go­ti­ated In­done­sia Aus­tralia Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship Agree­ment, which was to have been signed last month.

In­stead Jakarta has made it clear it is wait­ing for con­fir­ma­tion from Can­berra that the em­bassy will re­main in Tel Aviv be­fore it agrees to fi­nalise the deal.

Mr Mor­ri­son told Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo dur­ing a meet­ing at the ASEAN sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore last month that a re­view was un­der way and a de­ci­sion would be made be­fore Christ­mas.

Sen­a­tor Payne de­scribed her meet­ing yes­ter­day with Ms Retno as “ex­tremely warm and ex­tremely pos­i­tive” with the two dis­cussing ways of co-or­di­nat­ing as­sis­tance for the re­turn to Myan­mar of will­ing Ro­hingya refugees now in Bangladesh, through the ASEAN Hu­man­i­tar­ian As­sis­tance Cen­tre in Jakarta.

Sen­a­tor Payne con­firmed they dis­cussed “briefly the process of the (Is­rael em­bassy) re­view and the tim­ing the Prime Min­is­ter has com­mit­ted to in re­la­tion to that which is about to come this month”.

But she swept aside sug­ges­tions by a se­nior In­done­sian min­is­ter that the deal would be signed by the end of this year, say­ing: “We haven’t put a time­line on that. I’ve said it will be signed when it’s ready.”

In­done­sia is one of the most stead­fast sup­port­ers of the Pales­tinian cause and has warned Can­berra the re­lo­ca­tion would “harm the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship”.

Aus­tralia’s am­bigu­ous po­si­tion on the is­sue has caused some anger in In­done­sia where small groups of protesters staged demon­stra­tions out­side the Jakarta em­bassy and Surabaya con­sulate last week de­mand­ing Aus­tralia drop the idea.

In­done­sia’s Trade Min­is­ter Eng­gar­ti­asto Lukita said this week it was now up to the two coun­tries’ for­eign min­is­ters to set a date for the po­ten­tial sign­ing of the IA-CEPA.

But Evan Laks­mana, a se­nior re­searcher with Jakarta’s Cen­tre for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, said the Pales­tinian is­sue was “at the core of In­done­sian for­eign pol­icy”.


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