CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Indonesian and Australian ministers signed an agreement to strengthen government economic exchanges on Monday as the neighboring countries work toward forging a bilateral free trade deal.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani signed a memorandum of understanding at the Australian Parliament House that updates a framework for policy and technical exchanges between two governments that have existed for 12 years.
Indonesian and Australian officials have concluded negotiations on a free trade deal. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said last week he was confident after a meeting with Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo the free trade deal between Australia, a nation of 25 million people, and Indonesia, a near-neighbor with more than 260 million people, would be signed within weeks.
But Turnbull also warned the government to expect a negative reaction from Muslim-majority Indonesia if Australia follows the United States by shifting its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last month that his Cabinet was considering making the move.
Frydenberg said he and Mulyani had discussed the free trade deal on Monday and "we are moving towards signing that important agreement."
"Our ability to share ideas, share perspectives on economic, fiscal and taxation policy is absolutely critical to the close partnership that our countries share," Frydenberg said.
Mulyani described the meeting as "very productive" and said she was confident the bilateral relationship would continue to be positive and strong.
"In any relationship in any country, we always have ups and downs, but of what we can be very certain is that the relationship between many of the individual policymakers is always robust," Mulyani said.