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Remarks by Ambassador Michael Froman Announcing WTO Panel Request on Indonesia’s Import Restrictions on U.S. Agriculture

Remarks by Ambassador Michael Froman Announcing WTO Panel Request on Indonesia’s Import Restrictions on U.S. Agriculture

March 18, 2015
Washington, D.C.

*As Delivered*

“Good afternoon. Thanks everyone for coming, I appreciate you all being here for this announcement. I want to thank Secretary Vilsack in particular for being here – not just for this announcement, but for our partnership across so many important issues across rural America, and he has been a tireless advocate of our overall trade agenda. I am also joined by Representatives Larsen, Reichert, Schrader and Ashford. Thank you all for being here.

“And a special welcome to Tim Groser, my counterpart from New Zealand, a great trading partner and Tim has been a tireless worker in the fields of TPP. SO thank you for being here and joining us as well.

“When Secretary Vilsack and I travel around the country and visit the countless American communities that thrive on agriculture, it’s obvious that exporting our world-class products is a source both of prosperity and of pride – and that’s rightly so.

“President Obama has made clear how the imperative that the Administration to do all we can to guarantee a fair and level playing field so that U.S. exporters can compete and win on the merits of what they grow, and what they make here in the United States.  

“That’s why I’m so proud to take this action today, standing up on behalf of farmers and ranchers, who have been facing prohibitions and restrictions that unfairly limit their exports to the fourth most populous country in the world, Indonesia.

“We’re here because Indonesia bans the import of valuable U.S. agricultural products and imposes a variety of other import restrictions, on everything from potatoes to beef, and apples to grapes, and poultry. Such restrictions run afoul of Indonesia’s obligations under the WTO, and infringe U.S. trading rights.

“Nearly $200 million of America’s exports were affected by Indonesia’s import restrictions last year.  These products included $50 million of apples, $37 million of grapes, and $63 million of animals and animal products.  

“And if it weren’t for Indonesia’s prohibitive policies, we would expect to have sold far more than that. Remember, those increased exports are tied to good American jobs.

“So today, I’m announcing that the United States is challenging Indonesia’s import restrictions by requesting the establishment of a WTO panel.

“And we’re not alone in doing this. As Minister Groser’s participation today demonstrates, the U.S. has been working together with our close trading partner New Zealand on this issue, and New Zealand is also pursuing the establishment of a WTO panel to examine Indonesia’s import restrictions.

“This announcement comes at a time when the Obama Administration is fighting to unlock economic opportunities for American agricultural exporters across the Asia-Pacific region through the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  TPP, is a groundbreaking trade agreement that will grant Americans premium access to the dynamic and rapidly growing economies of that part of the world. 

“Not only will the TPP provide us with greater access those markets, but it will lift labor, environmental protections, it’ll strengthen intellectual property rights, and other standards in the region to levels that are appropriate for the 21st century.

“The enforcement action we are initiating today builds on the outstanding record of enforcement cases the United States has amassed under President Obama’s leadership.  This is the 20th case we have brought under this Administration, winning every case we have brought to conclusion.  In addition, in 2012 the President signed an Executive Order establishing the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center, or ITEC, in order to bring all the resources of the government to bear, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to the Commerce Department, to Treasury, to others, to put together these complex cases and hold our trading partners to account. 

“Today’s action is a powerful reminder of how vigilant the United States will be in upholding the groundbreaking standards we are negotiating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership – whether it’s on agricultural market access, to rights of workers, or  the protection of the environment.

“President Obama has proposed and fought for the most significant trade agenda in American history, and he has made that trade agenda a centerpiece of Middle Class Economics for a good reason: because Made-in-America exports, like the agricultural exports our farmers and ranchers are working to sell in Indonesia, unlock opportunity for the American people. 

“By finalizing cutting-edge trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we can grow the U.S. economy, support well-paying jobs across the country, and strengthen the American Middle Class.  The American farmer is a vital component of that Middle Class, so I’m thankful to have Secretary Vilsack here today, who will also speak about the importance of this enforcement action.”