Channel NewsAsia

US hauls Indonesia back to WTO over farm import rules

The United States said Thursday it was taking Indonesia back to the WTO to loosen its rules on the import of agricultural products, saying that reforms have been insufficient.

WASHINGTON: The United States said Thursday it was taking Indonesia back to the WTO to loosen its rules on the import of agricultural products, saying that reforms have been insufficient.

The United States, joined by fellow agricultural exporter New Zealand, said that they were seeking consultations under the World Trade Organization. If talks fail, the two Western nations could ask for the Geneva-based body to set up a panel to settle the dispute.

The United States in early 2013 also held WTO consultations with Indonesia over its "opaque and complex" rules on imports. In response, Indonesia streamlined its import licensing process and removed a number of items from regulation including garlic, chili powder and cabbage.

"Unfortunately, the revised system still appears to breach WTO rules and restrict US agricultural exports," US Trade Representative Michael Froman said in a statement as he announced the new WTO move.

"Accordingly, we will continue to press Indonesia to bring its import licensing system into compliance with WTO rules so that US farmers, ranchers, and businesses are able to have the access to Indonesia's market that we negotiated in the WTO," he said.

The United States said it was concerned about restrictions on its exports of fruits, vegetables, flowers, beef, poultry and other products to Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation.

The action comes ahead of Indonesia's presidential elections in July in which one issue facing candidates is economic policies seen by foreign investors as nationalist.

Indonesia generally has friendly relations with the United States, which has also launched WTO action against India in the midst of national elections.

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna