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Australia, Indonesia to officially sign free trade deal

Feb. 15, 2019 12:27 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 17, 2019 11:48 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Australia and Indonesia will sign a free trade agreement after months of tensions over Australia's announcement to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and threatened to derail the multibillion-dollar deal.

The trade agreement was meant to be signed in 2018, however, was delayed when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a decision to move the country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

The free trade agreement, which has been eight years in the making, will see Australian universities and health providers given access to the 250 million person market, as well as greater access for cattle, potato, and wheat farmers.

Morrison's announcement regarding the embassy move troubled Indonesia, which put the deal “on hold” until the Jerusalem issue would be sorted out.

In December, Morrison officially recognized "West Jerusalem" as the capital of Israel and stressed that Australia is going to recognize East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine once a peace settlement between the Palestinians and Israel is reached.

Australia's Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham, confirmed he would be finalizing the trade agreement in March, and said "Indonesia is the third largest democracy in the world with a fast growing economy, making the strengthening of our ties both strategically and economically important.”

Birmigham added, "This a strong deal for both our countries, which will increase the two way flow of trade and investment, creating more opportunities for farmers, businesses and economic development."

Following Morrison’s decision not to move the embassy, the objections of Indonesia's Foreign Ministry have been set aside to proceed with the trade deal.

It is noteworthy that both Australia and Indonesia are among the world’s top 20 economies, nevertheless, neither is in each other's top 10 trading partners.

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