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PM aims to complete Indonesian trade deal

Australia and Indonesia are finally close to a free trade deal aimed at fixing an economic relationship long described as "under done" for the two close neighbours.

The agreement will open up two-way trade opportunities for universities, farmers, and manufacturing in two of the world's top 20 economies.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will leave Australia on Thursday to meet Indonesian President Joko Widodo to agree to an end of negotiations.

"For many years the relationship has been described as under done," Australia Indonesia Business Council president Phil Turtle told reporters in Jakarta on Thursday.

"I don't think either country is in each other's top 10 trading partners.

"There is great opportunity now to have this agreement as a kickstart to try and do a lot better than we have been."

The agreement will free up Indonesia's university sector for Australian investors, allowing up to 67 per cent foreign ownership. Foreign investors are currently barred from majority ownership in an Indonesian university.

The deal, which has been discussed since 2012 and was initially due to be completed last year, should be signed later in 2018 after a legal vetting of documents.

Indonesian officials declined to divulge further details, but reports say rules on farm goods, such as Australian cattle exports to Indonesia, could be revised.

Mr Morrison said he had "a really good chat" with President Widodo on the weekend ahead of their meeting on Friday.

"We're a government that believes in trade because trade creates jobs. We're a pro-trade government," Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

But Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong says it will take more than a signature on some paper to improve relations with Indonesia.

"When you've got an economic relationship which is thin, that's going to affect whether or not you can have a genuine strategic partnership. We do have to work at it," Senator Wong told Sky News.

Mr Turtle said Australia cannot afford to miss out on opportunities in Indonesia, which could be the fourth-largest economy in the world within a few decades.

"When Indonesia looks to Australia, as good friends as we are, you look at a population of only 24 million versus 270 million and quite a modest economy compared to some of the others," he said.

"Australia's risk is that it may miss the opportunities that are here if it doesn't act reasonably promptly."

Mr Turtle said the change to Mr Morrison was unlikely to affect the deal, despite the close relationship Malcolm Turnbull had with President Widodo.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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