Indonesia says it would be a ‘good idea’ for Australia to join Asean

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has indicated his support for Australia to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ahead of a special summit in Sydney.

“I think it’s a good idea,” he told Fairfax Media in an interview published on Friday.

The president said it would be better for “stability, economic stability, and also political stability. Sure, it will be better” for the region.

The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, responded to the interview by saying he looked “forward to discussing that with President Jokowi if he raises it with me”.

Turnbull will on Friday open a special leaders’ summit in Sydney at a business forum attended by the 10 Asean member country leaders.

“The summit marks a coming of age of Australia’s relationship with Southeast Asia,” he said on Thursday.

As a bloc the 10 Asean member countries make up Australia’s third-largest trading partner, worth almost $100bn in 2016/17.

Australia is not a formal member of Asean but maintains a role as a strategic partner and takes part in the biennial leaders’ summit first instituted in 2016.

Turnbull hopes this year’s meeting will help to unlock new opportunities for trade and investment that will support jobs in Australia and across the region.

Turnbull is particularly keen to see Australian small businesses get a piece of the action amid a rapidly expanding middle class in the region.

By 2030, there will be an estimated 161 million middle-class households. The region is expected to grow by at least 5.4% for the next decade, significantly higher than the global average.

Turnbull will on Friday hold bilateral talks with Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong after the pair dined together on Thursday night.

Widodo arrives in Sydney on Friday and is expected to have dinner with Turnbull at his Sydney harbourside home in the evening.

The two countries hope to sign a free trade deal on the sidelines of the summit after failing to meet a deadline late last year, although negotiations are ongoing.

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