Widodo restores Australia ties 

Australian troops will be able to cooperate with their Indonesian counterparts again. Source: Wikimedia

Indonesia and Australia have restored full military relations after Jakarta suspended cooperation because of “insulting” teaching materials found at an Australian army centre.

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull held a press conference in Sydney with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, during his first official visit.

Widodo also expressed confidence that a free trade deal would be finalised this year and Turnbull said Australia would open a new consulate general in Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya, in eastern Java.

“President Widodo and I have agreed to full restoration of defence cooperation, training exchanges and activities,” Turnbull told the media.

The regional powers have held joint training, counterterrorism cooperation and border protection training.

Cooperation was suspended in January after an Indonesian officer allegedly saw references which he deemed derogatory to the vague Indonesian state ideology of Pancasila in training materials displayed at a special forces camp in Perth.

Australia’s military commander apologised earlier this month.

“[A] robust relationship can be established when both countries have respect for each other’s territorial integrity, non-interference into the domestic affairs of each other and the ability to develop a mutually beneficial partnership,” Widodo said.

The pair signed a deal to boost maritime security and border protection as well as combating crime and improving the efficiency of shipping.

“We have vested interests in the peace and stability in our region’s seas and oceans, so we both strongly encourage the countries in our region to resolve disputes in accordance with international law which is the foundation for stability and prosperity,” the Australian prime minister said.

Widodo said there was support for Indonesian language centres in Darwin, Brisbane and Sydney in addition to those in Perth, Melbourne and Canberra.

There would be be cooperation on counterterrorism, especially to address the return of jihadists from Syrian and Iraq, Turnbull said.

Bilateral trade between Australia and Indonesia reached US$15.3 billion in 2015-16, Canberra’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

Turnbull said tariffs would be cut for Australian sugar and Indonesian pesticides and herbicides while export rules for live Australian cattle would be relaxed.

Turnbull said Indonesia had agreed to lower sugar tariffs to 5 per cent in line with the rest of Asean, and for export permits for “a wider range of cattle in terms of weight and age to be exported to Indonesia”.

In return Australia would remove tariffs on pesticides and herbicides to put them on an even footing with other trading partners, Turnbull said.