Sat, 27 Sep 2003

Govt to set criteria for key products

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government is preparing criteria for selecting strategic products to be protected against the global drive to liberalize trade.

Indonesian Ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Gusmardi Bustami said the products would be proposed at a senior officials meeting of the WTO in December at its Geneva headquarters.

"We are formulating criteria for special products and how many special products are to be proposed in the meeting," Gusmardi told reporters on Friday.

"Thus, we will be ready (to answer) when we are questioned at the forum," he said, adding that Group 33 members were also committed to carrying out a similar move.

He was referring to an alliance that consists of 33 developing countries -- including Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, South American countries and several African nations -- which have been fighting to protect certain agricultural products against the liberalization drive. The grouping was co-founded by Indonesia during the failed fifth WTO summit in Cancun, Mexico, earlier this month.

Gusmardi did not give any details as to the planned criteria.

The strategic products will likely be agricultural products to be exempted from further tariff reductions, tariff quota expansions, automatic access to a special guard mechanism and ceiling tariffs.

Earlier press reports said that Indonesia's strategic products are to include rice, corn, soybean and sugar.

However, Pos M. Hutabarat, director general for industrial cooperation and international trade at the Ministry of Industry and Trade dismissed the reports, saying that the government had not yet finalized the list of strategic products.

Gusmardi said the senior WTO official meeting scheduled for Dec. 15 will resume talks on agricultural issues, non- agricultural issues and economic development.

He said Indonesia would continue to oppose tariff cuts for agricultural products, as was proposed by developed countries.

Agricultural reform is the key issue in the world trade talks, and the disagreement between developing and developed countries on this issue was partly responsible for the collapse of the Cancun talks.

Developing countries have demanded that the United States and the European Union make deep cuts in their domestic payments, cut tariffs and scrap export subsidies.