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NEWS UPDATES 24 October 2009

New body to help push EU to cut duties on Indonesian tuna

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The Europe-Indonesia Business Dialogue (EIBD) has agreed to form a team specifically to handle matters in the trade of fish between the two economies, following Indonesia's complaints about the Eurozone's high import duties, the Jakarta Post reported.

The Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry said Wednesday the agreement was the result of an EIBD meeting held for the first time on the issue earlier this month in Brussels, Belgium.

"The team will comprise government and business representatives from Indonesia and Europe," said Soen'an H Poernomo, the ministry's head of statistics and information.

Soen'an said the team would improve communication between the two parties and lobby for the lowering of import tariffs of fresh and canned tuna to Europe.

The government, on behalf of Indonesian fish exporters, has been calling on the EU to lower import duty on tuna. The EU currently imposes a 14.5 percent duty on fresh tuna and 24 percent on canned tuna from Indonesia.

Indonesia argues the duties are too high compared to those for other countries, such as members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), on whom the EU charges no duty for all tuna products.

"We understand that EU countries may have special historical connections with countries that enjoy zero import tariffs," Soen'an said. "Nevertheless, we request the same treatment for our tuna."

Indonesian exporters have also complained about the EU's "automatic border control" implementation, which takes an average three days to examine the metal content in fish imports.

The ministry argues this period is far too long compared to the three-hour examination of fish imports from places like Sri Lanka.

The border control is a system to examine the content of biotoxins, pathogenic bacteria and viruses, and chemical pollutants in imported food products.

Soen'an said that as a relatively new tuna exporter to the EU, Indonesia's track record in product health safety was still under strict scrutiny.

"We have made significant improvements in this matter for many years now, therefore we request the EU consider our development," he said. Indonesia's tuna exports to the EU reached 12,879 tons or $35 million in 2008, up by 112 percent in terms of volume and 72.8 percent in terms of value compared to figures at the end of 2005.

Europe absorbs about 10 percent of Indonesia's overall exports of tuna every year. Indonesia's main destination for tuna export is Japan, with the total value of exports at 26.271 tons or $111 million in 2008, followed by the United States with 19.19 tons or $72.3 million, also in the same year.

Imports of canned tuna into the EU reached 396,400 tons last year, with Ecuador the leading supplier as it enjoyed zero import tariffs.


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