JAKARTA. The two-day state visit of President Veronica Michelle Bachelet to Indonesia on May 12 and 13 was considered significant because the Indonesian government has been trying to expand the market for its products in South America.
Indonesia is expecting that Chile will serve as the gateway for its products to enter South America.
President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) warmly welcomed his counterpart at the Merdeka Palace on May 12, where they had a bilateral meeting to discuss efforts to strengthen bilateral relations between the countries, particularly in the areas of economy, trade, maritime, socio-cultural, and fisheries.
Jokowi said President Bachelet's visit to Indonesia came at an opportune time, as Indonesia has been intensifying trade and investment, and Chile is one of the priority countries.
"Trade and investment issues are the main topics during the bilateral talks," he noted, Saturday (13/5).
President Widodo lauded the business delegation accompanying President Bachelet.
"We have agreed that in future, bilateral cooperation will focus on several fields, such as fishery, strategic industries, agriculture, and the trade of agricultural products," he revealed.
Chile is Indonesia's third-largest trade partner in South America. In 2016, trade between Chile and Indonesia had reached US$ 227 million, with Indonesia enjoying a surplus of US$ 60.5 million.
Indonesia's main exports to Chile include footwear, apparel and accessories, electrical machinery, rubber and paper. Meanwhile, Chile's main exports to Indonesia include wood, charcoal, glass and glassware, aluminum and foodstuff such as citrus fruits and fruit peel.
Jokowi praised Bachelet for bringing along her country's business leaders.
"I highly laud her Excellency for bringing along Chile's business leaders during her visit," the Indonesian head of state said during the two countries' bilateral meeting.
President Jokowi stressed that during a discussion held at the State Palace's veranda, he had highlighted steps to be taken to strengthen the economic and trade relations between Indonesia and Chile.
"During the veranda talk, we discussed economic cooperation between the two countries, and continued with our bilateral meeting," he remarked, adding that several Chilean companies accompanying the president were part of the Federation of Chilean Industries and the Federation of Chile's Fruit Producers.
Resuming CEPA negotiation
Following the bilateral talks, both presidents witnessed the signing of two agreements on offering mutual visa exemptions for diplomatic passport holders and a joint-ministerial statement on negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
Currently, the two countries are in the process of negotiating CEPA, which is expected to increase trade and investment between the two countries.
Over the last two months, the two countries had resumed the CEPA negotiations that had got delayed for over two years.
"We hope that the CEPA negotiations, particularly related to trade and goods, would be concluded this year," President Jokowi noted.
Imam Pambagyo, Director-General of Trade Ministry's International Trade Negotiations, stated in March that the pact was crucial, as Chile has dozens of free trade agreements with more than 60 countries, mostly located in the Latin American region.
The CEPA agreement is expected to not only benefit the trade sector but also other economic areas, according to President Bachelet.
"During 52 years of bilateral relations between Indonesia and Chile, both countries have improved joint programs in several fields, including economy, culture, and politics," Bachelet said in a joint statement with Jokowi.
Bachelet noted that Indonesia is the world's fourth most populated country and has recorded an impressive economic growth in the past years.
"I understand that Indonesia and Chile are separated by a huge geographical gap. However, the two countries have been connected through some associations, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and an international forum on ocean and climate change," Bachelet observed, while expressing her commitment to protecting the world's maritime zones.
The Chilean president further said that, apart from improving the trade sector, sharing of knowledge and experiences between both countries is also vital.
"Indonesia and Chile could maintain more robust relations in the future by enhancing cooperation in the power sector," the Chilean president noted, while adding that Indonesia has huge potential in the form of solar and geothermal energy reserves.
During the bilateral meeting, President Jokowi was accompanied by his cabinet members, including Retno Marsudi, Foreign Minister; Darmin Nasution, Coordinating Minister for Economy; Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Maritime Coordinating Minister; Enggartiasto Lukita, Trade Minister; Pratikno, State Secretary, and Pramono Anung, Cabinet Secretary.
During her stay in Jakarta, Bachelet also attended a seminar on economic relations between Indonesia and Chile, organized by the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin).
Additionally, Indonesia and Chile sought to deepen socio-cultural ties, particularly through people-to-people connectivity.
Currently, there are 170 Indonesians settled in Chile, whereas about 8,350 people from the Latin American country visited Indonesia as tourists in 2016, according to the state data, SantiagoTimes reported.
Besides, the Government of Chile has expressed support to Indonesia's bid for the UN Security Council seat for the 2019-2020 period.
"I express my gratitude to Chile for its support to Indonesia's nomination for a membership of the UN Security Council for the 2019-2020 period," President Jokowi stated.
Indonesia had offered similar support to Chile during the 2014-2015 period.
In 2013, Bachelet had visited Indonesia in her capacity as the executive director of UN Women.
Jokowi said Bachelet and he had emphasized the importance of promoting women's empowerment.
Indonesia and Chile are members of the Association of Asian and Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement.
The close bilateral relations between Indonesia and Chile have helped strengthen cooperation in the two fora.
Besides bilateral engagements, President Bachelet also visited the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta to meet with Le Luong Minh, ASEAN Secretary-General and other officials.
She reiterated Chile's commitment to strengthen relations with ASEAN.
While welcoming Bachelet, Minh congratulated Chile on its accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia in September last year and underlined the importance of TAC as a strong foundation for closer cooperation and confidence building.
The importance of furthering ASEAN-Chile economic cooperation was highlighted at the meeting where President Bachelet emphasized the need to promote bilateral and multilateral trade and investment, encouraged the development of global value chain and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, as well as advancing e-commerce, among others.
Both sides also underscored the importance of enhancing connectivity and tourism between the two regions. In this regard, Chile expressed interest in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which is an important framework that ASEAN and its Free Trade Agreement partners are negotiating to boost global economic growth and deepen regional economic integration.
President Bachelet is the first Chilean Leader to visit the ASEAN Secretariat. She was also accompanied by Chile's Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz.
Editor: Sanny Cicilia