Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Indonesia Seeks Deeper Trade with Canada but No Formal Pact or Oilsands Interest

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Indonesia Seeks Deeper Trade with Canada but No Formal Pact or Oilsands Interest

Article excerpt

Indonesia seeks trade with Canada but not oil

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OTTAWA - Indonesia is eager to boost trade with Canada, but the South Asian country isn't interested in two of the Harper government's top priorities -- pursuing a free trade deal or buying Alberta oilsands crude.

Nonetheless, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa was unenthusiastic Thursday about boosting trade as he arrived in Ottawa for talks with his counterpart John Baird.

Natalegawa was quick to point out that trade between the two countries soared 60 per cent in the last year, saying there is plenty of room to boost volume and diversify, without a formal trade pact between the two countries.

"But even absent a free trade agreement, the reality is the trade figures and the trade trends (for) our two countries have been very positive over the past year," he told The Canadian Press in an interview.

"So let's focus on what we can do at the moment. That idea of a free trade agreement is something that's still way ahead of us."

Two-way trade between Indonesia and Canada, though climbing fast, is still at a low volume of about $3 billion a year. Natalegawa declined to give a target on boosting that figure.

The Conservative government has been vigorous about pursuing free trade deals with China, India, the European Union and host of smaller countries.

It has also made boosting trade with Asia a major priority, especially after the Obama administration delayed the Keystone XL pipeline project that would have carried oilsands crude to southern U.S. refineries.

Indonesia, the world's fourth largest country with its largest Muslim population, was identified by Canada as a priority country in an internal foreign policy review that Prime Minister Stephen Harper ordered Baird to undertake last year.

Natalegawa said the feeling is mutual about Canada.

But Indonesia is decidedly less enthusiastic about pursuing a play in Canada's oil and gas sector compared with some of its neighbours in the broader Asian neighbourhood.

Natalegawa said his country is more interested in developing new sources of sustainable energy.

"Our focus is on renewable energy. …

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