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Australian PM: Indonesia Would Be Welcome in TPP

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo loosen their ties as they visit the Tanah Abang retail market in Jakarta, Nov. 12, 2015.

Australia would welcome Indonesia into the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Thursday, as the two countries set aside past friction to focus on building closer economic ties.

Turnbull met Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, as part of an effort to restore diplomatic and economic relations, which reached a historic low under the previous Australian prime minister.

"The closer we are, the higher the intensity in our relationship, and the higher also the potential for frictions," Widodo said at the presidential palace at the beginning of the meeting.

Turnbull, who replaced Tony Abbott as prime minister in September, inherited ties strained by rows over spying, the execution of Australian citizens in Indonesia and tough Australian asylum-seeker policies.

"With our great meeting, we have really strong momentum to work in making our two great nations, greater still," Turnbull told reporters as the two leaders toured Indonesia's biggest retail market, in central Jakarta.

He said Australia would support any effort by Indonesia to join the TPP, which will set common standards on issues ranging from workers' rights to intellectual property protection in 12 Pacific Rim nations.

"If Indonesia chooses to apply to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we would support the application, absolutely," Turnbull said.

Widodo said last month during a visit to Washington that he intended to join the TPP. But government officials in Jakarta said it could take years for Indonesia to be ready.

Turnbull and Widodo also discussed improving cooperation on fighting terrorism and education.

Counterterrorism is an area of growing concern as Islamic State militants seek footholds outside the Middle East, where Australia is bombing the group as part of a U.S.-led military campaign.

Indonesia is Australia's 10th-largest overall trading partner and is the largest export market for Australian wheat worth A$1.3 billion ($917 million) in 2014, as well as a major destination for live cattle and sugar.

Australia will send its largest business delegation to Indonesia next week, with more than 300 companies expected to be represented.