Bachelet boosts Chile’s relations across Pacific in Indonesia visit

JAKARTA – Indonesian and Chilean presidents committed on Friday in Jakarta to concluding negotiations by the end of the year on an Indonesia-Chile comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) in 2017.

Bachelet arrived on Thursday and met her host President Widodo at the State Palace for lunch and talks.

Addressing a press conference, Michelle Bachelet said that she and her Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo signed a written commitment regarding both countries will to finalize negotiations over the trade deal by the end of 2017.

After a two-year delay, Indonesia resumed negotiations with Chile over the CEPA with a view toward further penetrating into non-traditional markets in Latin America.

The Jakarta government previously tapped Chile as a crucial trade partner in the region, on account of its existing free trade agreements with more than 60 countries worldwide.

Chile-Indonesia trade

Chile and Indonesia are members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC.)

Total trade between the two countries amounted to US$227.15 million in 2016. Exports from Indonesia have declined by 2.4 percent to $143.81 million, while Chilean imports decreased drastically by more than 50 percent to $83.34 million, Trade Ministry data shows.

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, aluminium and foodstuff like citrus fruits and fruit peel.

Additionally, Indonesia and Chile seek 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, state data shows.

ASEAN-Pacific Alliance

Besides bilateral engagements, President Bachelet will also visit the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta to meet with ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh and other officials.

Bachelet is also expected to attend an ASEAN-Pacific Alliance business forum to promote the CEPA between ASEAN member states and its free trade partners, the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Founded in 2011, the Pacific Alliance, which includes Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru, forms the world’s ninth largest economy with an export turnover estimated to be $445 billion each year.

Chile, as the pro tempore president of the Pacific Alliance, reiterated its interest in forging closer ties with ASEAN, following Chile’s accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in 2016.

Following her visit to Indonesia Bachelet plans to attend the One Belt One Road conference in Beijing on Sunday and Monday.