West Australia’s government cannot put a figure on the saving from closing its Jakarta trade office, a decision that has stunned the business sector.
Business in Western Australia is questioning the state government’s decision to close its trade office in Jakarta at a time when Indonesia is brimming with trade and investment opportunities.
WA’s regional director and one admin worker finish at the end of the year, to be replaced by a full-time employee in the Jakarta office of Austrade, the national trade commission.
A WA government spokeswoman said using the Austrade network would allow the state “to operate more efficiently in the region”.
However, she could not give a figure on how much the move would save.
“The move is expected to deliver savings to the taxpayer through the reduction in support staff and office leasing costs, however this is a secondary consideration,” the spokeswoman said.
It comes as other states ramp up their presence in Jakarta, ready to seize new opportunities in trade and investment expected to follow the inauguration next month of Indonesia’s popular new president Joko Widodo.
Queensland set up its Jakarta trade office in February ahead of an official opening later this year and the Northern Territory is represented in Jakarta by its former chief minister Terry Mills. Diplomatic relations with Indonesia are once again on the rise after last year’s spying row, and talks on a proposed economic partnership agreement are poised to resume.
Australia-Indonesia Business Council WA chairman Phil Turtle says the decision seems ill-conceived.
“The cost of running an office in Jakarta is quite small compared to the volume of trade done between our state and Indonesia,” he said.
“There’s great potential to expand the volume of investment from Indonesia and without having an obvious go-to point you would have to think we will miss out on that.”
Ross Taylor, of the Perth-based Australia-Indonesia Institute, was WA government trade director in 2001-2003.
He says Austrade staff, while experts, will not have the same specialised knowledge of WA.
“Their workload would not allow them to undertake a full-time-role looking after the very extensive demands from WA business and community,” he said.
In its 23-year history, the Jakarta trade office has played a key role in developing WA’s live cattle trade, facilitating multi-million dollar deals, and helped establish partnerships in industries from stainless steel manufacturing to WA-made fishing equipment.