Fri, 14 Mar 2003

'CSI policy not a trade barrier for RI products'

Rendi A. Witular, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A new controversial U.S. customs policy was not a form of trade barrier that would negatively affect Indonesia's exports to the former country, a visiting U.S. official said Thursday.

U.S. deputy attache for customs at the U.S. Embassy in Singapore, Peter R. Darvas, however, admitted the new policy would create small additional expenses for Indonesian exporters.

"None of these initiatives that U.S. Customs has put forward are designed to impede the relationship with Indonesia," Darvas said on the sidelines of a seminar on the subject in Jakarta.

The seminar was organized by the Indonesian Shipowners Association (INSA).

Darvas said the new policy was made in accordance with all World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

The U.S. government has launched the Container Security Initiative (CSI) in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. The policy is aimed at protecting containerized shipping from being exploited by terrorists.

But many Indonesian exporters are worried the new policy will increase the cost of exports to the U.S. and hamper the delivery of products.

Under the CSI, exporters must file a report with U.S. Customs listing goods they plan to ship to the U.S. 24 hours prior to loading, otherwise the products will not be allowed to enter the U.S. and the exporters will bear the cost of storage or reexport.

The report must be product specific and if an error occurs in the report, intentionally or unintentionally, U.S. Customs will fine the exporter around US$5,000.

Exporters would bear the additional cost of around $25 to use the U.S. Customs automated manifest system facility for transmitting the report, and whatever inspection process is required by CSI regulations.

From the report given, U.S. customs personnel will assess whether the goods are classified "high risk" or not.

U.S. Customs have assigned the Singapore port as the base for the U.S. inspection team to probe containers from Indonesia.

The prior inspection measure in Singapore would help reduce the traffic load of physical inspection at U.S. seaports.

If an examination occurred at the CSI port, such as Singapore, the host government, not U.S. Customs, must agree to conduct the inspection.

Darvas said the cost of the examination in Singapore would be less expensive than the same process at U.S. ports.

Elsewhere, INSA chairman Barens Th. Saragih told The Jakarta Post the policy would burden local businesspeople with additional costs for transmission fees and for setting up special online systems with the U.S. Customs to send the manifest report.

Last week the U.S. government, based on their Bioterrorism Act of 2002, announced that local exporters supplying food and animal feed to the U.S. market must register themselves with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent a threat to the U.S. food supply.