U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week that the United States has requested that the WTO establish a dispute settlement panel to examine Indonesia’s import restrictions on a range of U.S. agricultural products, including U.S. beef. Trade officials from New Zealand have filed a similar request with the WTO. More details are available in this USTR news release.
The U.S. first requested consultations on these matters in January 2013, and working together with New Zealand consulted again in August 2013 and May 2014. During this time Indonesia has announced various changes to its import procedures, but its policies continue to impede trade.
At its 2011 peak, Indonesia was a top 10 destination for U.S. beef/beef variety meat, with exports totaling 17,847 metric tons (mt) valued at $28.2 million. But the following year, the Indonesian government put very tight restrictions on beef imports in an effort to build up its domestic industry. BSE-related restrictions were also imposed on U.S. beef in April 2012. As a result, exports to Indonesia declined by 91 percent in volume and 70 percent in value in 2012, before rebounding somewhat in 2013. Last year, exports to Indonesia totaled 6,559 mt (+30 percent from 2013) valued at $26.8 million (+60 percent). But the business climate in Indonesia continues to be uncertain, due in part to its volatile import policies. U.S. beef/beef variety exports to Indonesia in January 2015 totaled just 45 mt valued at $528,000.