Emma Connors – Indonesia is on track to ratify the free trade agreement with Australia by the end of the year in what will be welcome news for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who will be in Jakarta on Sunday for the inauguration of President Joko Widodo.
The ratification timetable will be on the agenda if, as expected, the Prime Minister and the President squeeze in a speedy bilateral meeting either side of the formal ceremony.
The last time the two leaders met was on the sidelines of the G20 in June. The FTA was discussed then, and both agreed to try to get it signed into law by the end of this year. But it is only this week that the legislative path has become clear.
In Canberra, enabling bills are due to be voted on in the House of Representatives next week and will be debated in the Senate next month.
Labor had pledged to renegotiate the deal if it had won the May election but is now considering giving the government the votes it needs to secure passage in the upper house in exchange for some amendments, despite reservations from some MPs and sections of the union movement.
In Jakarta, the FTA will have been tabled in parliament for 60 days by the end of November. It can then be ratified by either a parliament vote or Presidential decree.
Ni Made Ayu Marthini, director of bilateral negotiations at Indonesia's Ministry of Trade, confirmed the 60-day period would not be prolonged by the inauguration and subsequent appointment of a new Cabinet.
Smooth passage expected
While the parliament is hard to predict, one MP, Nasril Bahar, said he did not expect many to raise objections, especially given Indonesia has a trade surplus with Australia.
Indonesia's Foreign Ministry also expects a smooth passage, says Santo Darmosumarto, director of the Ministry's East Asia and Pacific division.
Darmosumarto said the two countries have a strong history of government-to-government co-operation but there was plenty of room to improve business and trade links, and to broaden each country's perception of the other.
"For a long time we have looked north; to Japan, Korea and China, and so has Australia, but in both looking north we have missed each other."
George Marantika from the Australian Committee at Indonesia's Chamber of Commerce, who will be at a business lunch with the Prime Minister on Sunday, said it will be up to the private sector to ensure the free trade deal delivered on its potential.
"Governments can facilitate and support but when it comes to the real economy, it's up to business," Mr Marantika said.