Indonesian business leaders are desperate to get Australian universities in to dramatically lift the number of workers in higher education.
They praised the decision to conclude a free trade deal between the two countries, with plans to get it signed before Christmas.
Indonesia has a work force of about 132 million people, but half of them only have a primary school education, and just 13 per cent have a university qualification.
“We want to open up for education, and also the focus on training. We need it very badly,” Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chair Rosan Roeslani told reporters in Jakarta on Saturday.
“This is I think the key element for our agreement.”
Business leader Shinta Kamdani said the deal was more of a partnership, and it wasn’t all about trade liberalisation.
“Services is a big part of this agreement, it’s not just about trading goods,” Ms Kamdani said.
“The fact we can skill exchange, vocational training, I think that’s a big thing for Indonesia.”
The agreement will free up Indonesia’s university sector for Australian investors, allowing up to 67 per cent foreign ownership. Foreign investors are currently barred from majority ownership in an Indonesian university.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Friday signed a memorandum of understanding committing the countries to signing the deal this year.
Australia and Indonesia are two of the world’s 20 largest economies and close neighbours, but neither are in each other’s top 10 trading partners.
“This is one of the earliest bilateral (deals) that we’re doing,” Ms Kamdani said.
“So our government is still trying to work it out. I have to say this is a big achievement for our government.”
Both leaders urged Australian businesses to look at how they can get involved in Indonesia’s surging economy.
“I think this is the best time to come in and invest in Indonesia, because we are simplifying a lot of policy and regulation,” Mr Roeslani said.
“We want to encourage more players, not just the same that are the existing ones, but new players,” Ms Kamdani said.