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Indonesian trade focus

TRYING to realign the business reality of Indonesia with the negative perception that shrouds the island nation is one of the tasks Ross Taylor has set for himself during his term as Western Australian chairman of the Australia-Indonesia Business Council.

He has returned to WA after completing a stint as the WA Government’s regional director to Indonesia and cites boosting the council’s relevance as a major objective.  The council’s WA membership stands at 100, down from the 350-member high it enjoyed a few years back.

Mr Taylor said there was a paradox surrounding Indonesia.

“In terms of the perception, people think it’s a bad news story,” he said.

These perceptions were reinforced last week when a Western Australian businessman was shot dead by an armed gang on an Indonesian island last week. 

“Yet there are still people getting involved with it [Indonesia] at a business and even a charity level,” Mr Taylor said.

“We’re talking $1 billion in trade a year, and that’s just from WA.

“With all the bumps we’ve experienced with Indonesia over the years, we’ve developed a saying – ‘Business just goes on’.”

However, Mr Taylor admitted the Bali bombings, followed by the ASIO raids in Australia, had a massive impact on Australian-Indonesian trade.

As Asian markets go, Indonesia is not one of the easiest to do business with, especially for small to medium-sized enterprises.

Countries such as Malaysia, Mr Taylor said, often provided a simpler entrance to the world of Asian export.

“That said, it’s [Indonesia] a nation with a population of 220 million and it is an emerging market.”

Potential markets in the archipelago include health services, livestock, gourmet foods and education.

Mr Taylor said providing education and training, particularly to Indonesia’s public sector workers, was one way SMEs could get into the Indonesian market without having to leave Perth.

“The AIBC is bringing a group of Indonesian public servants to Perth for training,” he said.

“Health is also a great opportunity for WA. Our hospitals are as good as those in Singapore [where Indonesians often go for treatment] and about 25 per cent cheaper. ABS statistics show that people coming here for medical treatment spend more than any other Asian visitor category.

“I’m passionate about getting the State Government to access this market. We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of people who would normally go to Singapore.”

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