Thu, 06 Mar 2003

U.S. to scrutinize RI's exports over fear of terrorism

Rendi A. Witular, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The U.S. government has urged Indonesian exporters that supply food and animal feed to the U.S. market to register themselves with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

After registering, local exporters are also obliged to give prior notice to the FDA of the arrival of goods, otherwise the products will not be allowed to enter the U.S. and the exporters will bear the cost of storage or re-export.

Agricultural counselor for the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia Charles T. Alexander told reporters on Wednesday the new policy was based on the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 which permitted the FDA to respond quickly to a threat to the U.S. food supply.

"The registration will assist the FDA to determine the location and the cause of a potential threat and permits the agency to quickly notify facilities that might be affected," said Alexander.

The registration covers the owners, operators and agents in charge of domestic or foreign facilities that manufacture, process, pack or store food for human or animal consumption in the U.S.

The early notification is given to FDA by U.S. importers or agents. However, that will be based on information provided by the Indonesian exporters.

The notice must be product specific which means that if a shipment or container contains two different products then two prior notices must be filed.

The FDA encourages registration through the Internet for speed and convenience. Registration must be made no early than Oct. 12 and no later than Dec. 12.

Alexander assured local exporters that the impact of the policy on Indonesian companies would be minimal as there would be no fee charged and most of the efforts and responsibility fell on the U.S. importers or agents.

He explained that any policy related to the Bioterrorism Act would be handled in full compliance with multilateral and bilateral trade agreements and that the notification would be made to the World Trade Organization.

Sheri Villerose, economic trade representative for the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia told The Jakarta Post that in connection with the new policy the U.S. customs may assign personnel posted at Singapore seaport to inspect containers from Indonesia which were suspected of carrying "high-risk" goods.

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

The move to assign Singapore as the base for the U.S. inspection team to probe containers from Indonesia had earlier been opposed by local businesspeople, concerned 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.

Local businessmen said the policy would only benefit Singapore, as Indonesian exporters would have to pay additional costs for the inspection there.


Indonesia's food and feed exports to the U.S. in 2002

Commodities Value (in U.S. dollar)

Agriculture, fish 1.7 billion and forestry products

Cocoa beans 148 million

Roasted and instant 11.3 million coffee

Shrimp 153 million

Spices 80 million

Rubber and allied 405 million products

Raw Coffee 62 million -------------------------------------------- Total: 2.5 billion

Source: The U.S. Bureau of the Census Trade Data