RI fights to add agro-products to APEC green list
Apr 28, 2013

Indonesia is maintaining its efforts to place two of its agriculture-based products — palm oil and rubber — on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) list of environmentally friendly goods despite rejection by some members.

To that end, Indonesia will attempt to win support from its Southeast Asian neighbors particularly those producing similar commodities.

The government will also offer other nations the possibility of nominating their own items in the proposal, Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said.

“We are open to accommodating the interests of other countries that also want to include their agricultural products on the list,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. Gita said the government would push the issue for discussion at the upcoming senior official meetings in June and leaders’ summit in October.

At the APEC trade ministers’ meeting in Surabaya last week, the delegates failed to agree on inclusion of the products on the list of APEC environmentally friendly goods. Items included on the list can enjoy import-duty reductions of up to 5 percent by 2015.

The US representatives reportedly objected strongly to Indonesia’s proposal to expand the list, saying that implementation of the current list by 2015 should be prioritized, despite affirmative responses from several delegates from other countries, such as Chile, Peru and Papua New Guinea.

Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producer and second-largest natural rubber supplier, has raised concerns that the majority of the 54 items considered “eco-friendly” on the list are manufactured goods, which it sees as reflecting more the interests of developed countries than those of developing and least-developed countries (LDCs), which mostly still depend on the agriculture sector.

APEC director at Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism Julio Chan said that his country supported Indonesia’s idea and was assessing the possibility of also proposing its own specific commodities.

“Peru regards agricultural commodities that are environmentally friendly, especially from biodiversity, as important to us. But, we have to convince all the members of APEC to reach a consensus on that,” he told the Post after the conclusion of the APEC meeting last week.

Indonesia’s Trade Ministry’s director general for national export development Gusmardi Bustami said the government would continue to maintain its stance on balancing interests on the list.

“If we are to introduce the APEC environmentally friendly goods list to the World Trade Organization [WTO], it is imperative to prove that it is not a developed-country list of goods,” he told the Post.

Embracing agriculture-based products could help developing countries and LDCs to contribute to the environmental cause and at the same time, address problems such as poverty and rural development, Gusmardi added. “Developing countries and LDCs whose economies are agriculture-based should be given space to contribute by adding eligible products to the list,” he said.

Palm oil, which Indonesia claims is “eco-friendly” due to its feasibility for conversion into biofuel, has long been controversial at home as it is blamed for causing deforestation as well as social conflicts.

In the past year, however, the local industry has made attempts to address the issue although much progress is still required.

Since last year, Indonesia has been named the world’s biggest certified sustainable palm oil producer by multi-stakeholder body the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Linda Yulisman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines