Antara, Jakarta – Indonesia aims to reduce the deficit in bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia, which became its major trade partner last year, amid huge reliance on oil imports from the Kingdom, Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan said on Sunday.
The bilateral trade volume was valued at around $7 billion last year, with a deficit of $3 billion on the Indonesian side, according to Trade Ministry data.
However, when oil imports were excluded, Indonesia has a surplus of $1 billion in its two-way trade with Saudi Arabia.
"In my opinion, there is still room to boost the bilateral trade volume. On our side, we can increase the exports of goods needed by Saudi Arabia such as footwear, processed food, paper, plywood, and other consumer products," Zulkifli said in a statement following a meeting with his Saudi counterpart Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi in Riyadh on Sunday.
During the three-day visit until Monday, Zulkifli also revealed the government's plan to open a modern retail shop in the kingdom to promote products from Indonesian small and medium enterprises.
Saudi Arabia is Indonesia's eighth-biggest export destination for processed food such as canned tuna, instant noodles, chili sauces, ketchup, and biscuits.
During the meeting, Majid agreed to boost the bilateral trade volume with Indonesia in line with the directive from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the Saudi prime minister.
"The friendship between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia is a very important asset that should translate into mutually beneficial economic ties for the two countries. We feel shame that we haven't optimized cooperation with Indonesia but we will make improvements in the future," Majid was quoted as saying in the statement.
Saudi Arabia is also a strategic partner for Indonesia's ambition to become the global hub of halal products.