CRAIG EMERSON: Australia's been able to achieve a breakthrough with the Indonesian authorities, such that Australian horticultural exports will still be allowed to go through the main port in Jakarta, Tanjung Priok. There was a regulation that was promulgated three months ago that would have banned all horticultural imports into Indonesia from going through that port in Jakarta. But as a result of very strong representations, and the cooperation of the Indonesian authorities — including Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan, a good friend of mine — we were able to achieve this breakthrough, and those horticultural exports will continue to flow.
ANNA VIDOT: Why? What's changed from the Indonesian perspective?
EMERSON: Well the Indonesians came to the view that Australian horticultural exports are of high quality and don't contain bugs and such things. We have a Country Recognition Agreement with Indonesia such that they do recognise our procedures to make sure that our horticultural exports don't contain bugs, don't contain excessive amounts of pesticide. And on that basis we were given the tick. So it is a good development because it would have been a real setback for our horticultural producers around Australia if this important and growing market had been effectively closed by having the horticultural exports go through ports other than Jakarta.
VIDOT: We have seen the implementation of this ban delayed a couple of times. Now are we talking about indefinite access for Australian exporters?
EMERSON: We are. The original decision to apply the ban was made in March. We asked for a suspension of the implementation of that decision. It was suspended until the 19th of June, and by that time we had negotiated successfully with Indonesia to exempt Australia.
VIDOT: How important is this for Australia, economically speaking? How important is that market?
EMERSON: It's a very important market and it's a growing market. Indonesia has 245 million people and a growing middle class. They do want premium Australian agricultural produce. And so this is really important — $58 million worth of exports already, but this is a rapidly growing market. And we have a good relationship with Indonesia, and that was really the basis of being able to achieve this breakthrough.
VIDOT: Australia wasn't the only country originally to be caught up in this ban. Other countries like China, the United States were also going to be affected. Does this exemption apply only to Australia or other countries as well?
EMERSON: Two other countries have managed to achieve an exemption, and they are the United States and Canada — so, Australia, the US and Canada. I think New Zealand is negotiating. But we've been able to achieve that such that there has been no disruption in terms of a suspension of our exports through that main port in Jakarta.
VIDOT: As is so often the case with agriculture and trade someone else's misfortune is someone else's gain. Is there a possibility that Australia could get a larger market share now?
EMERSON: Well, I think that is a possibility. And, as you say, it's not something that we manoeuvre towards. But because of the great efforts of our horticultural producers and those involved in the supply chain through to Indonesia we enjoy a really good reputation for premium agricultural produce. And my own view is that's the way to go in the future: really high-quality agricultural produce for the rising middle classes of Asia. They're seeking those sorts of high-quality, premium products — no better country than Australia to supply them.
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