Mon, 17 Mar 2003

New U.S. terror policies threaten RI exporters

Rendi A. Witular, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The new U.S. Container Security Initiative (CSI) policy and Bioterrorism Act will particularly hurt Indonesia's small and medium-sized exporters because it will mean additional costs and other difficulties, an industry leader said.

Chairman of the Indonesian Food and Beverage Association (Gapmi) Thomas Dharmawan told The Jakarta Post over the weekend that the government should protest against the U.S. and its new policies.

"Small and medium-sized exporters will have difficulties in exporting their goods (to the U.S.)," he said.

He added that exports by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) accounted for the bulk of the country's non-oil and gas exports to the U.S., one of Indonesia's main export markets.

The U.S. government enacted the CSI and the Bioterrorism Act in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. The policies are aimed at protecting containerized shipping from being exploited by terrorists.

Under the new policies, export goods destined for the U.S. market must first undergo a costly, time-consuming physical inspection in Singapore.

Exporters must also file a report with U.S. Customs listing all 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.

Thomas explained that SMEs had been shipping their products in loose containers along with other items belonging to different exporters. Such a method is a cost-cutting measure as the export volume of each exporters is small.

Thomas had received reports that because of the new U.S. policies, several carriers were now reluctant to ship goods bound to the U.S. in loose containers due the huge penalty risk and the longer time needed in completing the physical inspection process.

He said that this was an alarming problem as it would impede the development of local SMEs.

Loose containers are prone to errors during the reporting of the manifest to the U.S. Customs which could result in a fine of around US$5,000.

Thomas said that carriers passing through the inspection process would have to pay US$25 per hour in fees at the Singapore port to have the administration forms completed for each type of product, and another $56 per 15 minutes for a senior official to check the accuracy of the form.

He said the process could take at least two hours.

The charges will be later passed on to the exporters.

Thomas said that the exporters will also have to pay another $25-$30 per shipment as a cost for sending the prior notice to the U.S. Customs.

The above costs were on top of the usual terminal handling charges (THC) of around $100 per twenty feet equivalent unit (TEU) and shipping charges which range between $1,100-$1,200 per TEU.

Thomas said that food and feed products which have already passed the CSI inspection process in Singapore would still have to pass the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration screening process as required by the Bioterrorism Act.

Meanwhile, spokesman of the Office of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy Mahendra Siregar said the government would not protest nor negotiate with the U.S. government over the CSI and the Bioterrorism Act.

Mahendra explained that the government had realized that with the lack of inspection facilities at the local ports, the country could not comply with the inspection standards of goods as required by the U.S.

Moreover, he said, the policies were not only imposed against Indonesia but every country in the world.

"This is not a trade barrier for only us," he said.