Indonesia relaxes import rules after US goes to WTO

Indonesia relaxes import rules after US goes to WTO

JAKARTA - Indonesia has eased restrictions on some agricultural imports after the United States complained to the World Trade Organization over Jakarta’s “opaque and complex” rules, the trade ministry said.

The US first raised the issue with the trade body in January, citing Indonesia’s “broad use of import licensing measures that restrict imports” on a range of agricultural products.

It criticised the licensing system, which came into force last year, as “opaque and complex", saying it was inconsistent with Indonesia’s WTO obligations and was having an impact on US exports to the country.

Last month Indonesia rejected a US request for the creation of a WTO panel to settle the dispute but late Wednesday the trade ministry said it had eased the restrictions.

The number of horticultural products regulated has been reduced by 18, the trade ministry said in a statement, adding that the new rules came into force on Monday. It made no mention of the WTO dispute.

The import of only 39 products would now be regulated, the ministry said. Products that are no longer regulated include garlic, garlic powder, chili powder and cabbage.

For those that are still regulated, the process to apply for import permits had been simplified and could now be done online.

“We want the permit process to be simpler and administration of imports to be more orderly so that a higher degree of business certainty can be achieved,” said ministry official Bachrul Chairi.

The case has put Indonesia under the spotlight at a time that former trade minister Mari Pangestu is in the running to lead the WTO, and as the country gears up to host the trade body’s ministerial meeting later this year.

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