March 23, 2015


US and New Zealand protest Indonesia's food import restrictions



The US and New Zealand have together expressed opposition to Indonesia's import restrictions on food and farm products, saying they infringed on international trade protocols.


This is the fifth World Trade Organisation (WTO) case brought by the US against Indonesia, and a dispute settlement panel, under the WTO, will have to mediate over the issue. If left unresolved, it could lead to sanctions.


Similar measures were first implemented in 2011 and caused a decline in imports from the US, which have not recovered since. Licensing requirements from those restrictions kept a tight check on the time when specific products can be brought in as well as pricing and quantity, a US official explained.


As a result, close to US$200 million worth of Indonesia-bound US exports were affected. Products hampered by the restrictions included cattle, chicken and beef exports to Indonesia, the US trade office said.


Flanked by New Zealand's trade minister, Tim Groser and US officials, US Trade Representative Michael Froman declared his support for the WTO case against the Southeast Asian country, saying this would help "farmers and ranchers across the US who have been shouldering unfair export barriers to Indonesia".


Groser also voiced his concerns. "Agricultural exports are the lifeblood of our economy", he commented.


While its economy pales in comparison to the US which is about 99% bigger, New Zealand's agricultural exports in 2014 recorded a value of US$23.84 billion, equivalent to 15% of American exports.