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ASEAN to improve cooperation with Gulf countries

07-25-2011 14:40 BJT

JAKARTA, July 25 (Xinhua)-- An Indonesian official said that the Association of the South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has moved forward toward enhancing regional economic cooperation with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), local media reported here on Monday.

Trade Ministry Director General for International Trade Cooperation Gusmardi Bustami said Sunday that both parties conducted the first meeting of ASEAN and GCC senior economic officials in Salalah, Oman, on July 11-12.

"At the meeting, we exchanged views and information about ways to improve economic cooperation, such as mechanisms of decision making in ASEAN, which involves existing councils," he was quoted by the Jakarta Post as saying.

Gusmardi, who led a meeting with Gasim bin Mohammed Al-Qasmi, the head of economic affairs at the United Arab Emirates' Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said both parties also discussed a framework agreement for economic and investment cooperation as well as measures necessary to commence free trade negotiations between two parties in the services and infrastructure sectors.

Gusmardi said the meeting was a follow-up of the ASEAN-GCC two- year action plan (2010-2012) endorsed during the second ASEAN-GCC Ministerial Meeting in Singapore in June last year and agreed at the ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting in Da Nang, Vietnam, in August. Initiatives to increase regional cooperation were started three years ago by ASEAN and GCC secretariats. Both parties are exploring possibilities to develop a free trade agreement as well as boost trade and investment partnership. Set up in 1981, the GCC consists of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Gusmardi said an FTA between ASEAN and the GCC was expected to reduce trade deficits between ASEAN and GCC member states and bolster bilateral trade, which was so far complementary in nature.

"We hope that through an FTA, the GCC can reduce their import duties and remove non-trade barriers, such as trade permits, which currently hamper [ASEAN] exports," Gusmardi explained.

He added that both parties would further explore trade and investment opportunities in connectivity -- including infrastructure, transportation and communication, as well as construction and finance.

The Indonesian Trade Ministry said total trade between Indonesia and GCC countries reached 10.11 billion US dollars last year, up 31.43 percent from 7.69 billion US dollars in 2009.

Indonesia exported 2.98 billion U.S. dollars and imported 7.12 billion U.S. dollars, resulting in a deficit of 4.14 billion U.S. dollars.

Indonesia mainly exports paperboard, pulp and paper products, vehicles, wood, electrical and electronic equipment, rubber and textiles, and imports oil (representing 77.69 percent of total imports last year), organic chemicals, aluminum, plastics, iron and steel.

The total trade between ASEAN and the GCC was valued at 83.25 billion US dollars last year, up 23.64 percent from 67.33 billion US dollars in 2009. ASEAN's exports reached 20.13 billion U.S. dollars, while imports reached 63.12 billion U.S. dollars, causing 42.99 billion U.S. dollars in deficit.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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