Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Indonesian President Joko Widodo jointly denounced Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, noting its effects on the global economy through inflation, disrupted supply chains, and worsening food insecurity.
Mr. Albanese welcomed Mr. Widodo to Australia on July 4 during the annual Australia-Indonesia leaders’ meeting in Sydney, where they deepened links between both nations.
In a joint communique, the leaders criticised Russia’s “deeply concerning war” in Ukraine, underlining the importance of respecting sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity.
Further, they called for an Indo-Pacific region “free from coercion,” a clear message to Beijing, the current power disrupting the region’s status quo. They also reiterated their opposition to “any unilateral changes to the status quo.”
The two leaders also noted the “importance of diplomacy to avoid the risks of miscalculation,” a message that comes after Beijing cut off communication at every level with the U.S. military over the past year and a half.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a trip to Beijing in June, where he made efforts to renew official communication but met with no success.
Mr. Blinken repeatedly raised the prospect of establishing a crisis communication line between the U.S. and Chinese militaries during his visit to China.
“At this moment, China has not agreed to move forward with that,” he told reporters on June 19.
“I think that’s an issue that we have to keep working on. It is very important that we restore those channels.”
Australia has been on the receiving end of a similar freeze in communication by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) following the former Morrison government’s push for independent investigations into the origins of COVID-19.
In 2020, the Chinese regime cut off all ministerial contact and slapped arbitrary trade sanctions on a number of Australian goods in response to the COVID-19 request, as well as Australia’s prohibition on China-based companies Huawei and ZTE from involvement in Australia’s 5G infrastructure.
Currently, tensions between the two nations appeared to be thawing after the Albanese Labor government was elected and ministerial talks resumed.
Australia, Indonesia Strengthen Trading Relationship
Following the CCP’s unofficial trade war, Australian exporters were forced to diversify their trade relationships.
Mr. Albanese said there were few more important trading partners to Australia than Indonesia.
“As Australians feel the pressure from global economic challenges, it’s important that we’re investing in trading relationships to grow our economy, support good jobs, and strengthen our supply chains,” he said.
“Last year, our two-way goods and services trade reached a record $23.3 billion. But there’s so much more to do.”
As part of efforts to expand business and commercial links, Australia has lifted a number of barriers for Indonesians.
Business visas for Indonesians will be extended from three to five years, and Indonesian e-passport holders will also be given prioritised access to Australian smart gates.
Australia will also invest $50 million (US$33 million) to fund start-ups and small to medium enterprises for Indonesia’s energy transition.
Another US$200 million capital financing facility will be utilised to support Indonesia’s goal to reach net zero by 2060.
Export Finance Australia will establish the facility in partnership with the Indonesian government-owned power company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara.
“There is a lot that Australia can offer Indonesia and the region in the energy transition, including the global move towards electric vehicles. We are rich in all of the components and the expertise needed for renewable energy,” Mr. Albanese said.
Mr. Widodo welcomed the “many positive developments” and emphasised the importance of developing greater economic cooperation through the joint production of electric vehicle batteries.
The two leaders also agreed to encourage greater education cooperation and discussed initiatives to support professional mobility and develop Australian-Indonesian literacy.
“Building on the success of Monash University’s Campus in Indonesia, I’m delighted to announce that Western Sydney University, Deakin University and Central Queensland University will soon join Monash to bring Australia’s world-class tertiary education to Indonesian students and professionals,” Mr. Albanese said.
Indonesian students looking to study in Australia will also have access to more scholarship opportunities, while Australia will launch a new university pilot program to support Indonesian language learning.
Increased Military Cooperation
The relaxation of travel barriers comes after Indonesia and Australia elevated their existing defence cooperation agreement to a treaty-level agreement in February.
Mr. Albanese said Indonesia’s contribution to regional security has been pivotal for the region.
“As I said at my keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore just last month, all countries in the region, large and small, have a collective responsibility to help keep the region peaceful,” he said.
Mr. Widodo expressed that Indonesia wanted a stable and peaceful region that “focuses on collaboration and concrete cooperation.”
They reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining security and stability in the South China Sea.
“[The leaders] underscored their strong support for freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded trade, and emphasised the need for the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” they said.
It comes after Indonesian authorities deployed a warship, a maritime patrol plane and a drone to monitor a Chinese coastguard vessel that was active in an area of Indonesia’s resource-rich North Natuna Sea in January.
China has tried to claim the area under its nine-dash line policy. This is despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague finding China’s claim illegal in 2016.
Indonesia has also not recognised China’s claim, stating that under UNCLOS, the southern end of the South China Sea is Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.
Victoria Kelly-Clark contributed to this report.