Sat, 03 Apr 2004

U.S. lists RI as among nations with worst trade barriers

Dadan Wijaksana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia has been listed among 55 nations accused by the U.S. government of using unfair trade practices and barriers against U.S. exporters.

The list is contained in a report entitled The National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers issued by the Office of the United States Trade Representatives (USTR).

The U.S. government said that Indonesia had not complied with global trade regulations.

Progress was needed in almost all 10 categories classified as foreign trade barriers including import policies (tariff and non- tariff), export subsidies, certification, intellectual property rights protection, service barriers, automotive policy etc., said the report as stated in the USTR website on Friday.

The U.S. government promised to intensify efforts to push its trading partners including Indonesia, to remove the barriers through bilateral consultation and negotiation. It said that the trade barriers had badly hurt U.S. exporters and its economy.

However, if talks fail to bear fruit, then harsher actions -- for instance bringing the case to international regulators such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) -- would be taken, the report added.

While the move follows years of U.S. discontent over Indonesia's selected economic policies, critics have said here that it is nothing more than a desperate attempt to salvage its worsening trade deficit.

While China and Japan have no doubt the largest trade deficit with the U.S., a US$7 billion deficit with Indonesia in 2003 should also pose concern to the U.S.

The U.S.-China current trade imbalance, at $124 billion, is the largest deficit the U.S. has ever experienced with a single trade partner.

Equally outrageous, the U.S.' call for developing nations to comply with what it said were basic principles of trade liberalization comes at a time when the U.S. government in certain cases, pursues policies that could harm the economy of its trading partners such as Indonesia.

The U.S. allocates a huge subsidy for a number of agricultural products to its farmers to help keep the price of their products below that of the actual production cost, making them more competitive in the global market, which definitely hurts Indonesian farmers.

Among other prominent issues the report highlighted was the Indonesian government's move to impose de facto quantitative restrictions on the import of meat and poultry products by requiring a certain certification, which raises U.S. concerns that this was being used to limit imports from the U.S.

"U.S. industry estimates the trade impact of this restriction to be between $10 million and $25 million," said the report.

The other issue was a policy allowing the government to maintain a ban on the import of chicken parts for not meeting the halal (permissible to Muslims) certification requirement.