Mon, 10 Feb 2003

Local businessmen to meet U.S. customs

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Indonesian Shipowners Association (INSA) has asked United States customs officials to explain to Indonesian businesspeople the new U.S. customs policy, which has caused apprehension about the harm it could cause to the country's exports.

INSA chairman Barens TH. Saragih told The Jakarta Post on Friday that Indonesian businesspeople were confused about the new Container Security Initiative (CSI), and worried the new policy would add to the cost of exporting to the U.S.

The U.S. customs office has agreed to meet with local businesspeople in Jakarta on March 13, according to Barens.

The CSI, which was introduced in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, aims to prevent dangerous goods from entering the U.S.

The policy took effect in January, but there is a two-month transition period before the policy is fully implemented.

Under the CSI, Barens said, exporters must file a report with the U.S. custom office about any goods they are shipping to the U.S. 24 hours prior to loading. However, most local businesspeople remain in the dark about the details of the policy.

"First, the reporting system is not clear. Do we send the reports to the U.S. customs office in the U.S. or Singapore? And can we send the report via e-mail?" Barens said.

"Second, do all the vessels carrying our goods have to stop in Singapore for inspection before leaving for the U.S.?" Barens said.

Barens said that during a recent meeting with U.S. customs officials in Singapore, he was informed that not all containers from Indonesia had to be inspected in Singapore, but only those containers carrying "high-risk" goods.

However, Barens said local businesspeople feared that in the long term the agency would expand the policy, requiring all goods from Indonesia bound for the U.S. to be physically checked in Singapore.

"We fear the system will only benefit Singapore, as we have to pay additional costs for inspections there," said Barens.

The U.S. is the largest market for Indonesian products, particularly agricultural goods such as tea, coffee, shellfish, black pepper and rubber.

Indonesia's exports to the U.S. amounted to US$7.7 billion in 2001, down from $8.4 billion the previous year.