Jakarta. Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu is optimistic two-way trade with Malaysia will rebound to $15 billion this year - its level before the global financial crisis - thanks to strong commodity prices and the improving economies of both countries.
Mari was speaking on Monday after meeting her Malaysian counterpart, Dato Sri Mustapa Mohamed, in Jakarta.
She said that before the financial crisis and its devastating impact on trade, two-way trade had been $15.3 billion. That figure had shrunk to $12.5 billion in 2009.
Citing a “rapid trade increase between January and May this year,” Mari thinks the 2008 figure is again within reach.
Indeed, Indonesian Trade Ministry data shows trade between Southeast Asia’s largest economy and Malaysia was $7.1 billion from January to May.
Mari said higher commodity prices had contributed to the resurgent figure.
Mustapa said he hoped his visit would improve relations between the neighbors.
He stressed the importance of trade between Malaysia’s Sarawak and Sabah and Indonesia’s Kalimantan, which share a land border.
Mustapa said that representatives from both countries would meet in Potianak, West Kalmintan, in October with the aim of forming a joint committee charged with boosting trade opportunities across the border.
Indonesian exports to Malaysia include commodities such as cocoa beans, crude palm oil and other natural products, while Malaysia sends cement, data processing systems and tobacco and chemical products.
Hopes are running high that businesses and services will begin to figure more significantly in the trade mix.
Mustapa said he expected to see more Indonesian companies investing in Malaysia.
He singled out Indonesian taxi company the Blue Bird Group - which he praised for excellent service - as a business that he hoped would expand operations to Malaysia.
The trade minister said an official from Blue Bird had reciprocated his interest and told him he would bring company executives to “meet taxi companies in Kuala Lumpur” in anticipation of an expansion.
Teguh Wijayanto, head of public relations for Blue Bird, said company officials had met a Malaysian envoy but said the company was still just studying the possibility.
Still, he was optimistic about business opportunities in the neighboring country.
“As long as the market is feasible, why not,” Teguh said.