Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia and Vietnam have agreed to boost bilateral trade and investment to improve the balance of trade.

Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita stated here on Monday that the countrys trade balance with Vietnam had improved from year to year. It suffered a deficit of US$966.5 million in 2014, but the figure was down to $421 million in 2015 and $182.9 million in 2016.

"During the January-May 2017 period, Indonesia had recorded a surplus of $5.1 million, and so, we wish to maintain and utilize the momentum to further increase the balance of trade with Vietnam," he noted in a press release.

Indonesia and Vietnam have given significant attention to increasing bilateral trade and investment and cooperation to improve the quality of pepper and the management of the worlds rubber market.

The issues were discussed by Enggartiasto and his Vietnamese counterpart Tran Tuan Anh at the 7th Indonesia-Vietnam Joint Commission on Economic, Science, and Technical Cooperation (JC-ESTC) in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Saturday.

At the meeting, the Indonesian minister highlighted the importance of cooperation between both nations in the field of investment.

Indonesias investments in Vietnam include in the areas of property, coal exploration, and the cement industry.

"We have sought special attention from the Vietnamese government by not creating an environment that would impact Indonesias investment in Vietnam but rather by encouraging greater investment. We have recorded Vietnams interest to invest in the coal mining sector in Indonesia. It will certainly be welcome," Enggartiasto noted.

The meeting agreed to drive cooperation in various sectors, ranging from export promotion, industrial cooperation, investment, energy including oil and gas, agriculture, fishery, transportation, finance, banking, and telecommunication to improvement of pepper quality.

Being the worlds main rubber producer, the Indonesian minister has invited Vietnam to join the International Tripartite Rubber Council along with Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

JC-ESTC is a routine meeting forum for Indonesian minister of trade and Vietnamese minister of trade and industry set up in 1990 to improve economic, scientific, and technical cooperation, including investment development and expansion of business opportunities for both countries.

Six meetings have been held, so far, with the last being in 2012 in Jakarta. After a five-year vacuum, the Indonesian minister took the initiative to revive the forum to boost trade and investment between both nations.

The meeting holds significance, as Vietnam has set a target of becoming the manufacturing hub of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) following its participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and has successfully attracted significant foreign investment.

"Our strategy is embracing Vietnam by strengthening that countrys position as one of the main centers of the Indonesian regional supply network in the ASEAN. This strategy is more practical than competing frontally with Vietnam," Enggartiasto affirmed.

Indonesia has raised the market access issue with Vietnam in areas of medicine, coal, Wagyu meat, and hatching eggs, while Vietnam has highlighted the policy for Indonesian trade security, horticulture imports, and local content.

Enggartiasto said Vietnam is the third-largest market in the ASEAN region after Indonesia and the Philippines, with its population of 93.3 million and a growing middle class as well as members from the productive age group, reaching 70 percent of the population.

"Hence, Indonesia needs to give special attention to Vietnam not only due to its economic and market potential but also as an investment destination to enter other countries that have reached a bilateral free trade agreement with Vietnam," he noted.

According to Indonesias national statistics agency, the total value of trade between Indonesia and Vietnam in 2016 had reached $6.3 billion, with Indonesia suffering a deficit of $182.9 million.

Indonesias exports to Vietnam from January to May 2017 were recorded at $1.40 billion, up 35.32 percent from the same period last year, while imports from Vietnam were recorded at $1.39 billion, up 3.98 percent.(*)

Editor: Heru Purwanto
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