Libs seek Jakarta Trade Office answers

31 Oct, 2014 02:00 AM
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Surely this is the most critical time to ensure that we make a good impression

A DELEGATION of Liberal MPs will visit Indonesia in response to reports the WA Trade Office in Jakarta is to be closed.

Agricultural Region MP Brian Ellis will lead the delegation, which will also include his colleagues Nigel Hallett and Phil Edman and WA Indonesia Business Council president Phil Turtle.

Mr Ellis said the Indonesian media was already reporting on the potential trade office closure and the delegation's up-coming visit.

He said it was very important to retain goodwill with the Indonesian government, local trading partners and Indonesian consumers who buy WA products.

"The fact that Prime Minister Tony Abbott prioritised a trip to Indonesia for the inauguration of new President Joko Widodo confirms the importance of their country to Australian trade, and to politics in our region," Mr Ellis said.

"Surely this is the most critical time to ensure that we make a good impression and build a close working relationship with the President and his new government?

"Given that other States, such as Queensland and the Northern Territory, are beefing up their representation in Indonesia, the timing of this decision is open to question.

"Indonesia is our nearest neighbour, our biggest wheat and meat importer, has a significant consumer population and is on the same time zone, so we should be making the best of a trading partner that is a natural fit."

Mr Ellis said Indonesia was one of WA's main agricultural trading partners and the relationship had just started to recover from the bruising effects of the suspension of the live cattle trade.

"The last thing we need is a further setback, and after more than 20 years of operating a dedicated trade office in Jakarta, it is essential that we ensure that Indonesia knows how highly we value their trading partnership," Mr Ellis said.

"We need to ensure that we seamlessly maintain and build on our industry contacts."

Mr Hallett and PT Elders Indonesia president director Richard Slaney will visit the Elders feedlot in Sumatra.

The full delegation will then meet with Indonesian company directors and executives to discuss the issue, including PT Bis Industries commissioner director Noke Kiroyan, and PT Icon international communications Indonesia managing director Chris Barnes. Both men advised on the Indonesia/Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Mr Ellis said he was left shaking his head at reports that the WA Trade Office in Jakarta would close in favour of an in-house representative at the Austrade Office.

The trade office's regional director has not had her contract renewed.

Mr Ellis said as Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) is also closing its Perth office, direct local representation on meat trade from the WA government to Jakarta will be even more important.

Mr Ellis said it appeared the State development department had made an internal decision to close the office, as WA MPs were not briefed on the subject and no ministerial announcement was made.

"I understand Premier (Colin Barnett) is still considering his options, and we are hoping that we can come back with a compelling argument to convince him to have a re-think," Mr Ellis said.

Important meetings in Jakarta will include discussions with Bis Industries chief executive officer Ian Lynass, and MLA regional manager Indonesia John Ackerman, along with other company representatives.

"I believe the Premier has an opportunity to turn this situation around to WA's advantage," Mr Ellis said.

"By encouraging the department to reconsider its decision he can show that, at the very top level, our government places such value on our relationship with Indonesia that our most senior politician has used his authority to ensure that our stand-alone trade office remains open.

"It has taken a long time to re-establish our close working relationship with Indonesia after the live cattle trade debacle and after a 23-year history of having a stand-alone WA Trade Office in Jakata, the timing and implementation of this decision is delicate."

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