By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Indonesia is not keen to open up its market for more agriculture products from the Philippines, something that prompted the Department of Agriculture (DA) to explore other ways on how to correct the trade imbalance between the two countries. This includes being more restrictive on food commodities coming from Indonesia from now on.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the trade negotiations between Indonesia and Philippines held last month ended up “not very good” and that negotiators from the Philippines just came home “downhearted.”
Philippines particularly asked Indonesia to open up its markets for more food commodities coming from here given that it exports tons of products here.
Every year, Indonesia nets as much as US$1 billion from exporting agriculture products, mainly palm oil, to the Philippines, while the latter can only export food products worth US$50 million to Indonesia.
“It looks like they are not yet ready to open up,” Piñol said. “It also dampened our interest to open our market for Indonesia.”
If the Philippine government wouldn’t act, the DA chief said the trade balance between the two countries would remain “grossly tilted in favor of Indonesians.”
The DA already started looking at commodities from Indonesia that may soon be subject to a much restrictive import rules like palm oil and coffee.
For palm oil, the Philippines had earlier sought for the intervention of World Trade Organization (WTO) for the possibility of putting a quantitative restriction (QR) on the said commodity.
This, after the DA earlier found out that the country’s palm oil imports from Malaysia grew to 80 million kilograms (kgs) in 2017 from 20 million kgs in 2016, while that from Indonesia surged to 120 million kgs last year.
Nevertheless, Piñol clarified this isn’t a start of “trade war” between Philippines and Indonesia.
Philippines, he said, will just try to seek fairness.
“It should not be a one way affair,” he said. The two countries, he said, are neighbors after all.