Philippines seeks balance trade with Indonesia

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - January 9, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines may impose stricter trade measures against Indonesia after the ASEAN neighboring country decided not to ease up on its protocols and open their market access.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the trade negotiations between the two countries did not yield positive results for the Philippines last month.

“It was not good. They were not really ready to open up their market access for all our products. Our trade negotiators came home downhearted,” Piñol said.

“This also dampened our interest to further open our market to Indonesia. This is not something like a tit-for-tat, but we might be stricter because the trade balance is grossly tilted in favor of them,” he added.

The Philippines recently asked Indonesia to ease up on its protocols and settle the restrictions and disparity in trade imbalance.

Government data showed that Indonesia exports $1 billion worth of agricultural products to the Philippines mainly palm oil, while allowing only a measly $50 million of exports from the Philippines.

The Philippines used to export a huge volume of horticultural products to Indonesia, including shallots and tobacco, but restrictive import policies imposed tilted the trade balance in favor of Indonesia.

“We are not trying to engage them in a trade war, but it should not be a one-way affair and we are neighbors in the first place,” Piñol said.

Because of this, the government is now studying other trade measures including the imposition of quantitative restrictions and tariffs for palm oil exports.

“The volume of palm oil which entered the country from Indonesia rose from 20 million kilograms in 2015 to about 260 million kilos in 2017 or an increase of about 900 percent. We can impose QR or tariffs to protect our farmers from injury and this is still being studied by the economic team,” Piñol said.

“And for coffee, we were already inclined to lift the SSG (special safeguard) duty on coffee mixes, but with the development we have to hold it,” he added.

SSG is an added duty to imported commodities to ensure that imports will level at the farm gate price so as not to hurt local farmers.

Despite this, the agri chief still aims to discuss the issue with Indonesian Ambassador to the Philippines Sinyo Harry Sarundajang.

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