China, Indonesia to safeguard free trade

China and Indonesia will safeguard free trade and the rule-based multilateral trading system as two major economies, in a bid to promote recovery of the world economy, trade liberalization and investment facilitation, Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday in Jakarta.

The two countries will also work together for regional peace and stability in the South China Sea, while Indonesia is expected to play a constructive role in China's relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Li said as he and Indonesian President Joko Widodo briefed journalists.

Meanwhile, China will expand imports of high-quality agricultural products from the Southeast Asian country, particularly palm oil, tropical fruits and coffee, to achieve a more balanced bilateral trade, Li said.

"We share a wide range of common interests and adhere to peaceful development and international rules," Li said of the two nations. "Indonesia's agricultural goods are competitive in the Chinese market, and we would like to import another 500,000 metric tons of palm oil a year."

The premier said China supports Indonesia's re­gional comprehensive economic corridor, which covers four provinces in the north, and will encourage Chinese companies to invest in the country.

In their meeting, Widodo said the two countries have deepened economic, trade, investment and cultural cooperation as strategic partners. Indonesia will accelerate the process of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway to ensure an early start to construction along the line.

Li is making his first overseas trip since being re-elected premier in March. He and Widodo witnessed the signing of agreements on the regional economic corridor and infrastructure.

The premier also met with ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi on Monday at the bloc's secretariat in Jakarta.

Li said China-ASEAN trade exceeded $500 billion and more than 50 million people traveled between China and ASEAN countries, showing great potential.

China hopes there will be breakthroughs in Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations to boost economic and trade cooperation in East Asia, providing opportunities to enhance trade liberalization, he said. China also would like to work with ASEAN to boost innovation and promote innovation-driven development, the premier said.

Lim said China has been ASEAN's largest trading partner for nine consecutive years, and both sides will strengthen ties for mutually beneficial outcomes.

On Monday night, the premier attended a China-Indonesia business summit of over 600 businesspeople. In the keynote speech, he said China and Indonesia should work together to expand trade, which hit $60 billion last year.

While importing more goods from Indonesia, China also hopes Indonesia will make it easier for Chinese tangerine growers to export there, he said.

China will firmly adhere to its reform and opening-up to share the benefits of development with the rest of the world, Li said. The Chinese market can be an equal playing field for domestic and foreign companies, he added.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the China-Indonesia comprehensive strategic partnership.

The key to Li's visit was to push forward projects of pragmatic cooperation, because Indonesia is a leading country in the regional bloc, said Xu Liping, a researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Both countries can promote cooperation in political safety, trade and economy and people-to-people exchanges by taking advantage of new opportunities under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, Xu said.