Joint press conference

  • The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP, Australian Minister for Trade and Investment
  • Gita Wirjawan, Indonesian Minister for Trade

Bali, Indonesia

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

4 October 2013

GITA WIRJAWAN: Well you know that we just had a bilateral meeting with Mr Andrew Robb, the Minister of Trade and Investment from Australia. It was a good meeting between the two of us.

We discussed a number of things: the first one would have been in respect to some of the recent developments on APEC, and one of the more positive developments in APEC is the progress that the senior officials have made in the last couple of days on a couple of things, one of which is basically the notion of promoting goods that are in support of sustainable development through rural development and poverty alleviation.

The senior officials have completed, but the ministerial meetings will take place today and tomorrow before the Leaders take up their meetings shortly thereafter.

The second would have been the preparations for the upcoming Ministerial Conference for the WTO, which will be in December.

As you know the three issues that have been discussed amongst all the WTO members have been moving in the right direction. And it is, I think, good to basically make sure that the progress we make at this APEC Summit will have a positive impact on whatever will happen at the Ministerial Conference for the WTO in December.

And it's also good that we have the presence of the Director-General of the WTO, who is here already. And he'll be meeting up with the 21 ministers of trade and he will be having his bilateral meeting with Andrew later today. And that, I think, will yield some positive results for the benefit of not only APEC but also the WTO.

The last bit is with regards to some of the bilateral issues that have been on hand between Australia and Indonesia. I think the highlight of that would be the issue of cattle that basically would need to be imported from a number of countries including Australia.

There is positivity in the sense that by way of the recent state visit of the Prime Minister we have basically a number of companies from both sides of the equation expressing their interest in making investments into Australia and also Australian companies expressing an interest as to investing in Indonesia for the purposes of basically ensuring food security for Indonesia in the long run.

I think that will be it in summary and let me ask my colleague Mr Andrew Robb to say a few words.

ANDREW ROBB: Well thanks very much Minister Gita and good morning all. Could I just firstly acknowledge the wonderful organisation that's taken place. I've been here two days now in meetings and discussions and if the organisation of the last two days is any indication, this APEC Meeting is going to be enormously successful.

So I would like to congratulate you and your team for the efforts you've put into this and its really significant organisation and presentation. It's a great showcase of how Indonesia is performing at the present time.

Secondly, just on the issues that the Minister raised, there is a significant connection between APEC and the WTO meetings, which again will be hosted by Indonesia in December.

It is very heartening to Australia to see the emphasis, increasing emphasis, and it's been pushed strongly by Indonesia on the importance of agriculture. But not just the importance of agriculture but the connection between trade and agriculture, and this focus on sustainable agriculture, how it will be a very important part of lifting people out of poverty in many parts of the region.

I suppose in many ways in Australia we see this century issues of water and food security. These will be the dominant issues over the next century, especially when you look at the explosion of the middle class across the region, which everyone must welcome in a most enthusiastic way because we're seeing literally hundreds of millions of people being taken out of poverty and being given a good quality of life, which is what every individual deserves.

So that's going to put a strain on food security and water. We have got the capacity without a doubt, but it requires a very keen focus on sustainable agriculture. And it requires a connection with trade so that every country is making the most of the things that they're very good at, in whatever part of agriculture that is, and in whatever industries.

Finally, on the question of this week, I've had the great pleasure of being here all week. I joined the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop in Jakarta the first couple of days. We had most heartening and warm bilateral discussions. As Gita has mentioned, we did bring with us 20 of the most senior business people in Australia.

And there is very keen interest across all sorts of sectors for the opportunities that Indonesia presents. And it's certainly an ambition of mine to continue to highlight and expose our business sector in Australia to the opportunities that are presented in Indonesia.

And at the same time, we are really heartened by the way in which President Yudhoyono, Gita and other colleagues are looking to Australia to assist with their food security issues and the live cattle trade, to get some normality back into that. Australia has to take a lot of responsibility for the problems that we've had.

And I must say I really thank you. You in particular, Gita, because you have worked assiduously and have understood the value to both countries of restoring normalcy to that trade. We've still got things to work through. It's been a very significant development—we've got an extra 75,000 cattle this quarter. Now that has breathed great comfort and enthusiasm into the industry.

It's been a really difficult two years or so since the trade was cut off unexpectedly and unfortunately. But we're now going to put that behind us and get on with it because it is of great interest to both countries. It's in our interest and we've seen overnight the purchase of the properties in Australia by the industry here.

And I think it can only improve the trade and the relationship and the understanding when you've got Australians involved here in the live cattle trade so they understand the issues with feedlots and slaughtering and all of the rest, the imperatives that the Indonesians face in receiving these cattle and the sort of cattle they want and all of those sorts of issues. It has occurred because we've had Australians financially and commercially involved in partnership here.

Now to have Indonesians similarly involved in some capacity at the other end—the breeding end, I think will also create a very significant understanding through the whole value chain and it only augurs well for the future. Thank you.

GITA WIRJAWAN: Ok, questions?

JOURNALIST: ABC. On cattle, you speak of normalising the trade and of the 75,000 cattle that are meant to be going this quarter but in the Australian industry there are concerns about unnecessary quarantine testing for diseases like blue tongue and BJD. Is there any frustration on either government's part they might become de facto barriers to the resumption of normality?

ANDREW ROBB: I think it's best for me to take that because you're quoting some people from Australia. As I said there are protocols and health issues which are subject of continuing discussion. And there's been already recognition on the Indonesian side of some of those issues. And I'm just very confident that with the removal of quotas there was pressure in Indonesia on how they do make sure that all the procedures are appropriate. We've now got to work through that.

And if it is excessive and some of them I suspect are unnecessary because we do comply in many respects already, but we have to prove that to the Indonesians. We have to satisfy their concerns. And the Indonesian Government, with 250 million people here – it's very important that these sorts of issues are handled in a systematic and comprehensive way.

But the bottom line is the trade is back in place and it's growing and it is very important, I think, for Indonesia, that is has sustainability and certainty with the protein coming into the country. It will keep prices at a level here that is satisfactory to the consumer but doesn't undermine the local cattlemen in Indonesia.

So I'm quite confident that these issues that are being raised will be worked through and we will see a very sustainable trade.

GITA WIRJAWAN: Thank you Andrew. I think it's important to recognise that the consumption of protein in Indonesia has risen on a continuous and consistent basis. And there is no reason for that not to continue for many years ahead of us. And that would basically mean I've taken a view on maintaining food security.

Now, the security of supply has to come from wherever—locally and non-locally, which is why we've taken view to basically lift the restrictions on the importation of cattle. I think this is something that's going to be needed for a while.

Now, lifting the restrictions and quotas does not mean we are not being cognisant of quarantine and health requirements. But having said that, whatever view we take on stuff like that has to be in accordance with international standards. And this is I think within the discussions we have internally on our side but also bilaterally when we meet with our friends from Australia or any other country.

So I'm hopeful that if this progress is in the right direction not only will we be able to take care of supply but we will be able to maintain stability of prices in the mid-term and the long-term in Indonesia.

JOURNALIST: (Question in Indonesian)

GITA WIRJAWAN: There's two questions: the first is related to an intention by an Indonesian company or group of companies to invest in the cattle industry in Australia. And the second is with regards to the registration to the WTO with respect to the plain packaging; whether or not these two items have been discussed in our meeting just now.

In answer…in English? On the first one, yes we did talk about it. But we talked about mutuality of investments. Indonesian companies investing in Australia and we talked about this particular company that has actually invested in Australia—Santori; they've made an acquisition or are in the process of finalising the acquisition. But it's not going to be limited to just that.

I think there are a number of Indonesian companies that are looking into Australia but at the same time there's also a discussion of how more Australian companies could look into Indonesia as to help ensure the security of supply in Indonesia.

On the second one, we did touch on that topic but whatever we do in the context of what gets registered with the WTO, we will go through the due process. And they will have to do whatever they have to do and we have to do whatever we have to do. And this is all in the spirit of respecting international rules and regulations.

ANDREW ROBB: I don't have anything to add to that. That's what happened.


JOURNALIST: Good morning, thank you Pak. Helen Brown, ABC Australia Network. I think this is a question more for Pak Gita. The beef system in Indonesia has been wracked by problems for a few years, partly because of what happened with Australia but also, I've been told, by concerns about the import licensing system and quotas. Pak, how confident are you that these changes will herald a new era for the industry in Indonesia and bring people the product they want at the price they want? Thank you.

GITA WIRJAWAN: I'm quite confident every time we make changes. And I'm confident of the nature of the changes that we've been making so far. And I think that we're moving in the right direction.

And by way of taking a view on price, I think it's good for us going forward because that's the barometer, for not only the producers, but also the consumers. And as you've seen in recent months I think there has been a pretty significant inflationary pressure on our side and that I think needs to be taken a view of. And I'm quite confident by way of the steps that we've taken recently on the Ministry of Trade and also the other relevant Ministries, I think we're confident that we'll be able to sustain this for as long as we need to.

ANDREW ROBB: Could I just say that having been to part of the discussions with the President, and the Cabinet, including Gita, it was clear I felt, through the tone and the intent and the detailed way in which the President responded on these issues was a clear indication to me that Indonesia has made a decision to sensibly get the trade back as best we can to normalcy because it's in both countries' interest.

GITA WIRJAWAN: Ok, thank you.

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