Indonesia, Qatar step up economic cooperation

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani conducted a two-day tour of Indonesia on Oct 17 and 18 to step up bilateral ties, especially in the economic fields.

Visiting Indonesia for the first time since both countries established relations 41 years ago, the Qatari Emir came to Indonesia to explore various economic cooperation and trade, because the value of the two-way trade between the two countries was still relatively small, namely US$900 million last year.

According to the Spokesperson of the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Arrmanatha Nasir, about 43 business delegates accompanied the Qatari Emir to discuss and ink economic cooperation in sectors such as energy, investment, trade, economy, health, youth and culture, sports, and civil aviation.

During a meeting with President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) at the Presidential Palace in Bogor, West Java, on Wednesday (Oct 18), Sheikh Tamim discussed cooperation in the development of infrastructure and tourism.

"His Excellency Emir Al Thani and I were discussing efforts to strengthen cooperation in infrastructure and tourism," Jokowi stated in a press conference after the meeting on Wednesday.

Jokowi invited more investment from Qatar during a meeting with Sheikh Tamim.

During a previous one-on-one discussion, the two leaders had formulated two things, the first one being related to infrastructure and the second one on tourism.

In addition to ministers and state officials, accompanying the Qatari Emir during his visit to Indonesia, he has brought along business delegations to participate in the Indonesia-Qatar business forum in Jakarta to discuss cooperation in the economic and trade sectors.

"I am very excited to receive this first state visit, and I believe this meeting would further strengthen the mutually beneficial relations between both our countries and nations," Jokowi remarked.

In the meantime, the Qatari Emir also confirmed discussion of cooperation in both infrastructure and tourism sectors. "We hope that a positive outcome could be achieved after this visit," the Qatari Emir noted.

He stressed that he had discussed cooperation in infrastructure and tourism with Jokowi. In addition to investment and economic cooperation, the two leaders discussed close ties too.

Indonesia and Qatar have agreed to follow up on a number of cooperation agreements signed by the ministers of both countries.

The ongoing projects, which have been carried out under Indonesia-Qatar investment agreements, include the construction of Nebras Power at PT Paiton Energy, worth US$1.3 billion, as well as the construction of gas and steam power plant (PLTGU) Sumbagut 134, in cooperation with PT Pembangkit Jawa Bali, worth $1 billion.

In addition to the economic cooperation, both countries also agreed to work together to build unity between societies in facing mutual challenges. For this purpose, the two leaders planted a friendship tree.

The Qatari Emir, along with Jokowi, also planted an ebony tree, or known as Sulawesi black wood, in the backyard of the Presidential Palace of Bogor, as a testament to the close friendship between both countries.

The ebony tree, or "Diospyros celebica," is a sturdy, shady, and Sulawesis endemic tree. The tree is expected to grow and symbolize the strength of Indonesia-Qatar relations.

Jokowi and Sheikh Tamim also witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the establishment of the Joint Commission, the MoU on youth and sports cooperation, and bilateral cooperation on air transport services.

Indonesia also signed a cooperation agreement with Qatar on health and a MoU in education between the Ministry of Education and Culture with the Qatar Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

In order to assure the implementation of the cooperation, Indonesia and Qatar will set up a working team to follow up on the cooperation agreements that were discussed during a bilateral meeting between the two leaders.

Regarding other investments, in the tourism sector in particular, Qatar is also interested in investing in the Mandalika Special Economic Zone (KEK) in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB).

"When I met the Qatari Emir, I showed him a picture of Mandalika; the Emir was very impressed with the beauty of Mandalika," Jokowi stated during the inauguration of the Tourism KEK of Mandalika in Central Lombok District, West Nusa Tenggara, on Friday (Oct 20).

After seeing the beauty of Mandalika, the Qatari Emir revealed that he wanted to take advantage of all the investment opportunities in the Mandalika area, Jokowi affirmed.

"The Emir pointed out that he has taken advantage of all opportunities. I immediately asked him to wait first and send a team to talk about it later," Jokowi revealed.

Considering the huge potential of the 1,175 hectare KEK, Jokowi hoped that the investment in Mandalika KEK could be realized. If it is developed, it would have an impact on the welfare and the economy of the people around the area.(*)

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