Emma Connors – When Indonesian President Joko Widodo delivers a planned address to a joint sitting of Parliament in Canberra on Monday, he might just have convinced his own legislators to approve the long-awaited free trade deal between the two countries – or it might still be in what his government has described as "the final stages of ratification".
Late on Tuesday, Commission VI in the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) approved the bill to ratify the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA). It agreed the bill would be passed into law.
Ratification of the free trade agreement in Jakarta – Australian legislators gave it the green light late last year – would put Mr Joko, also known as Jokowi, in Canberra at a historically important and hard-won moment in the bilateral relationship given the first of 12 rounds of FTA negotiations began back in 2005.
It would also be a powerful symbol of his personal commitment to deepening economic ties between the two nations.
But it's not quite a done deal.
The necessary DPR plenary meeting required to legislate was expected to take place late Thursday, but it's understood another committee approval is also required, a procedural step that should only take a day or two but could slow down the progress of the bill.
Some members of the Indonesian Parliament also maintain that any deal that could increase imports into the country should be stopped.DPR Commission VI member Evita Nursanty continued to make the case for IA-CEPA after the text of the bill was agreed on Tuesday, targeting the concerns of MPs who believe the agreement will increase Indonesia's trade deficit with Australia.
She said it would take the economies of both countries to a higher stage.
"President Jokowi has always said it will be used to increase Indonesian exports and build a broader market with greater opportunities for Indonesian business people – and will not just increase market access from Australian exporters," Dr Evita said.
Mr Joko's administration has made a big push to get IA-CEPA over the line in time for the visit. Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto, Deputy Minister of Trade Jerry Sambuaga and the Foreign Ministry's Director-General of Asia-Pacific and Africa, Desra Percaya, were all at Tuesday's meeting to help get lawmakers onside.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday confirmed the State visit of Mr Joko and his wife would take place, describing it as "an opportunity to build on the Australia-Indonesia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership".
The two-day schedule includes a ceremonial welcome at Government House complete with a gun salute and inspection of the guard of honour on Sunday. On Monday, Mr Joko is expected to become the first Indonesian president to address a joint sitting of Parliament in Canberra since 2010.
In Jakarta, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah noted the state visit would mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.