Govt asked to ban farm comodity imports

Original Publication Date: 
19 April, 2005

A group of non-governmental organizations staged a rally on Monday in front of the ministry of Trade and the State Palace to demand that the government ban the import of staple agricultural products and protect local farmers with subsidies and tariffs.

The Federation of Indonesian Farmers' Associations (FSPI) secretary-general, Henry Saragih, told The Jakarta Post that Indonesia should prohibit the import of all staple farm commodities, including rice, soybeans and wheat, to help local farmers stay afloat.

'Surging imports are destroying the lives of farmers. It is a result of trade liberalization under the WTO,' Henry said, referring to the World Trade Organization.The NGOs suggested that Indonesia quit the WTO and form an alternative trade organization that would guarantee fairer trade mechanisms.

The group was eventually received by the Ministry of Trade's Director for Imports Aang Kanaan Kusumah and representative Iman Pambagyo, who said he would forward their comments to Minister of Trade Mari E. Pangestu, who is on an official trip to Bali.

Separately, Institute for Global Justice (IGJ) executive director Bonnie Setiawan said that the scope of WTO rules must be reduced and exclude agriculture, intellectual property rights and services.'The scope of the WTO rules nowadays is too wide. The organization should focus only on trade, like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade(GATT) talks used to,' Bonnie told the Post.

However, he said that it might be better to retain the WTO as the organization could become a strong lobby forum for developing and least developed countries in pressuring developed countries.'The WTO has the potential to serve as a place where we can balance the unilateralism of developed countries,' he said.

Indra Lubis
International Operative Secretariat
Via Campesina