Congressmen Dave Reichert (R-WA), Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Doc Hastings (R-WA) have led a group of 15 Members of the House of Representatives in writing a letter to the Indonesian Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Trade requesting that they reconsider two new regulations that would make it more difficult to export U.S. fresh fruits and vegetables to this important market.
"I am committed to ensuring that American growers are able to access critical markets," said Reichert. "When regulations threaten this access, we must engage with our trading partners to quickly and effectively resolve these barriers to trade."
"Indonesia must be a responsible player in the international arena," said McDermott, "And, this means rescinding these onerous, non-science based restrictions on U.S. horticultural exports that could cripple our trade with Indonesia and hurt our growers."
"I firmly believe that our trading partners should be held accountable for unfair policies that place United States growers at a competitive disadvantage," said Hastings. "Indonesia is a top market for Washington state apples, pears and cherries, and these regulations could severely limit the ability for our growers to continue to ship to this important market with no scientific basis."
Indonesia has consistently been one of the top five importers of Washington state apples. In 2010, the country was a $57 million market for Pacific Northwest apples, pears and cherries.
These regulations, which were proposed by the Indonesian government earlier this year, would impose burdensome licensing, labeling and pre-shipment requirements for all imported fresh fruit and vegetables and could effectively serve as a barrier for U.S. exports.
Hastings and Reichert led a bipartisan group of 21 lawmakers in June in encouraging USTR to use all available resources to encourage Indonesia to rescind these regulations and a proposed closure of the Port of Jakarta to horticultural products. Reps. McDermott and Burton, co-chairs of the Congressional Indonesia Caucus, also submitted a letter to Indonesian authorities in June urging quick resolution of the issues. After successful engagement from the United States Trade Representative and the State Department, Indonesia agreed in June to exempt the United States from the port closure and delay these regulations.
In addition to Reichert, McDermott and Hastings, the letter is signed by Adam Smith (D-WA), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Greg Walden (R-OR), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Jeff Denham (R-CA), Norm Dicks (D-WA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Lois Capps (D-CA), and Dan Lungren (R-CA).
The text of the letter follows:
Dear Ministers Suswono and Wirjawan:
We write to raise our serious concerns with Ministry of Trade Regulation 60/2012 and the corresponding Ministry of Agriculture Regulation 60/2012, which, if implemented as proposed, could impose significant conditions on horticultural imports and effectively restrict safe, high-quality U.S. products from reaching the Indonesian market.
Not only do the scope and applicability of these regulations remain unclear but we also have concerns about the purpose of these regulations and whether Indonesian producers will be held to the same standards. These regulations are extraordinarily complex with multiple licensing and approval requirements, quantitative limits on imports, labeling requirements, pre-shipment inspection requirements and severe penalties for companies that make minor or inadvertent errors in their reporting requirement. In fact, the surveyor verification requirement alone could well halt shipments to Indonesia. We believe that the regulations will place considerable burdens on U.S. exporters, effectively serving as a barrier to trade, and may also violate Indonesia's World Trade Organization obligations.
Concern over horticultural import regulations enacted by the Indonesian government is not a new issue. We were recently able to successfully address a similar issue relating to the closure of the Jakarta port to U.S. and other countries' horticultural exports. We appreciate the Indonesian government's recognition of the high quality of U.S. horticultural products, which led to the exclusion of U.S. products from the port restriction. Unfortunately, the uncertainty and confusion surrounding the implementation of Ministry of Trade Regulation 60/2012 and Ministry of Agriculture Regulation 60/2012 have undermined that progress, causing some U.S. producers to stop exporting their products to Indonesia. This is detrimental to both of our countries, as exporters lose access to a critical market for U.S. produce, and Indonesians lose access to the high quality U.S. fruit that they have come to demand.
We urge you to engage with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and reconsider these damaging policies. Transparency and open dialogue between the U.S. and Indonesia is vital as these discussions move forward. We look forward to a swift resolution of these issues and a continued expanding trade relationship between the U.S. and Indonesia.