YAKIMA, Wash. — The Washington apple industry is very pleased with the World Trade Organization upholding its ruling issued almost a year ago against Indonesia trade restrictions, says Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced the WTO decision Nov. 9, calling it a “resounding victory” that should result in “increase export opportunities for U.S. farmers and ranchers.”
Since 2012, Indonesia has maintained restrictive licensing regimes for horticultural and animal-product imports. The USTR has called them “unjustified.” Powers called them “illegal” and thanked the USTR for hard work over many years to remove the restrictions.
Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission in Wenatchee, said the WTO action is “great news” for apple growers who have excellent supplies for Indonesia this season.
Last Dec. 22, USTR announced a WTO panel found in favor of the U.S. and New Zealand in 18 out of 18 claims that Indonesia has been applying import restrictions and prohibitions that are inconsistent with WTO rules.
The restrictions cost about $115 million in U.S. agricultural exports to Indonesia in 2015, including $28 million worth of apples and more than $29 million worth of grapes, the USTR said last December.
In a Nov. 9 news release, USTR said U.S. fruit, vegetables, flowers, juices, cattle, beef, poultry and other animal products were affected by the restrictions.
Even with the restrictions, the U.S. exported more than $2.6 billion in agricultural products to Indonesia in 2016 and imported $2.8 billion in agricultural products from Indonesia, USTR said. The U.S. lost an estimated $170 million worth of exports in 2016 because of the restrictions, USTR said.
“Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and an increasingly important export market for many U.S. agricultural products,” USTR said.
Indonesia appealed last December’s ruling in February and the WTO has now denied the appeal.
Prior to 2012, Indonesia was a 2.7-million-box per year market for Washington apples, Powers has said. Since then, it has been 1 million boxes lower but could grow back, he said.
One million, 40-pound boxes of apples are worth roughly $20 million. New Zealand, China, Chile and other apple exporters also are aided by the ruling so the market will be competitive, he said.
Fryhover has said Indonesia was a 4-million-box market in 1996 and should easily reach 2.5 to 3 million without restrictions.
Indonesians like Red Delicious and small-size apples which helps Washington’s exports, he has said.