Australia and Indonesia are just days away from signing a landmark free trade deal to bring new access to markets for agriculture and education.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, accompanied by Defence Industry Minister Steven Ciobo, will sign the deal alongside his Indonesian counterpart Enggartiasto Lukita in Jakarta on Monday.
“This is a good deal for Indonesia in terms of growing their economic opportunity and investment,” Senator Birmingham told reporters in Launceston on Friday.
“This is a great opportunity for our education providers, health and financial services providers as well, to be able to have easier access into Indonesia, better regulatory conditions to do business.”
The trade deal was meant to be signed last year, with negotiations concluding in August.
But the signing was delayed when Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the government was considering moving Australia’s Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.
Despite senior Indonesian ministers saying the pact was on hold until Australia clarified its position, Mr Morrison and Senator Birmingham maintained the matters were not related.
The free trade deal is Indonesia’s first major agreement of its type and will allow Australian-owned universities to operate in the country.
Senator Birmingham said Australian frozen meats, live cattle, feed grains, dairy, citrus and rolled steel would receive favourable treatment under the agreement.
Mr Morrison said on Twitter that the deal would take the economic relationship between the nations to a new level, while his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull was pleased the agreement was to be signed “at last”.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will study the detail of the deal, but said he supports closer economic ties with Indonesia.
“I want to make sure workers aren’t getting ripped off. But beyond that, I think it is good,” he told reporters in Sydney.
The signing will come ahead of the April 17 Indonesian election and Australia’s mid-May federal poll.
The deal opens up opportunities for businesses – the two countries are both in the world’s top 20 economies but neither is in each other’s top 10 trading partners.
Mr Morrison went to Jakarta in August on his first overseas trip as prime minister, meeting Indonesian President Joko Widodo and signing an agreement to conclude the deal.
Including Australian universities and vocational training providers in the agreement is especially important to Indonesia, which is trying to transform into a higher skilled economy.
About half of Indonesia’s huge workforce has an education level of Year Six or below.