(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi and Indonesian businessmen attending a business forum here yesterday emphasized the need for expanding trade and investment cooperation between the two OIC countries, making use of their potentials.
The forum was attended by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who called upon Saudi businessmen to invest in his country making use of its profitable investment opportunities in vital sectors including energy, minerals, automobiles and agriculture.
Yudhoyono, who met IDB President Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Ali, welcomed the plan to open an office of the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank in Jakarta to follow up the bank's projects in the country. An agreement for opening the office will be signed on Feb. 28.
Yudhoyono highlighted the strength of Indonesia's economy. "We would like to have joint investment projects with GCC, Arab and Islamic countries in vital sectors including energy, food, infrastructure and agriculture," the president said.
The president backed IDB's program to promote South-South and tripartite cooperation, especially in agriculture and other sectors and its support for the private sector and infrastructure projects. He said Indonesia was ready to exchange its technical expertise with other OIC countries.
Yudhoyono thanked the Saudi government for its humanitarian assistance following the Tsunami catastrophe that hit his country in 2005 and for sponsoring 6,000 orphans, who were victims of Tsunami.
Mazen Batterjee, vice president of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the forum was successful in bringing together business leaders in both countries to explore prospects of cooperation.
"There is a desire from both sides to expand trade and investment relations," Batterjee said, adding that the present two-way trade does not reflect the potentials and ambitions of the two countries. In 2011, Saudi-Indonesian trade stood at 6.84 billion.
Addressing the forum, Indonesian Minister of Trade Gita Wirjawan highlighted the strategic importance of the forum in expanding South-South Cooperation.
"Both countries will play an important role in the world economy one or two decades into the future," he added.
The forum aims at expanding trade and investment relations between the two countries that have a common political and economic history as members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said Wirjawan.
During these ties of slow economic growth conditions of developed countries, global economic growth engine is determined by markets of developing countries and the growth of the south, the minister said.
In 2012, the economic growth rate of Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries was 1.2 percent while for BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries achieved a growth of 3.8 percent. At the same time, Indonesia's GDP grew by 6.3 percent and Saudi Arabia's 6 percent.
During the forum, the Saudi and Indonesian businessmen held one-to-one meetings and business-to-business meetings to explore prospects of expanding cooperation.
"It is expected that the information given in the forum would give positive perspectives of Indonesia and encourage investment and trade flow between the two countries," Wirjawan said.
Saudi Arabia is Indonesia's 22nd export destination and in 2011 the trade balance between the two countries reached 3.99 billion in favor of the Kingdom. During January through October 2012, the trade balance decreased by 17.66 percent to 2.67 billion. During the same period Indonesia exported products worth 1.5 billion to the Kingdom, 25.42 percent more than the previous year.
Indonesia's main exports to the Kingdom were vehicles, furniture, paper, man-made filaments, and fats, oils and waxes.
Saudi exports to Indonesia grew by 8.92 percent during 2007-2011 with the value reaching 5.42 billion in 2011. But during January through October 2012, the export value dropped by 5.98 percent to 4.18 billion.
Indonesian Industry Minister MS Hidayat explained the growing investment opportunities in energy, mineral and high technology industries in his country. "Indonesia has the highest economic growth rate in Asia after China," he pointed out. Indonesia is the second fastest growing economy in G20.
M. Chatib Basri, chairman of Investment Coordinating Board, told Arab News the forum was aimed at informing businessmen in both countries about investment opportunities. He said the growing young population in his country would play a big role in driving economic growth.
Hamad Al-Battal, a Saudi business consultant, was happy over the forum and said it would have a big impact in strengthening Saudi-Indonesian business ties.
"The Indonesian president and ministers have welcomed Saudi businessmen offering all support. It's now our turn to respond positively to this call."
Abdul Mohsen Bin Baz, president of Al-Fidah, said Saudis and other Arabs would be happy to invest in a big Muslim country like Indonesia. "I am very happy to know that there are lots of good investment opportunities in Indonesia. I am sure they will get good business from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states."
Meanwhile, an Indonesian Foreign Ministry official told Arab News that Yudhoyono was not likely to discuss the issue of lifting the ban on exporting domestic servants to Saudi Arabia during the current trip. He said the president would leave the Kingdom today for Cairo to attend the OIC summit, after visiting the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah.