Indonesia : The WTO Aggravates Dependency on Food Import, Encourages Corruption

(Jakarta, February 15, 2013). The Indonesian People’s Movement against Neocolonialism-Imperialsm (Gerak Lawan) demands that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the House of Representatives to put Indonesia out from the World Trade Organization (WTO) membership.  The WTO has weakened the national competitiveness and moreover encouraged corruption in the country.

 Another bleak consequence is the massive conversion of productive lands into coal mining and palm oil plantations. This exacerbates impoverishment and marginalization of the people—both men and women.

Recently, Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, the President of Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), one of the biggest parties in the country, was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for allegedly involved in rigging meat import quotas.  Seeking an excuse to protect national interests against the WTO’s principle which prohibit import restrictions, the import quota stipulation has encouraged collusion between importers and the government.  In this context, food import has become a business arena, leading to corruption.

In 2012 alone, Indonesia imported around Rp125 trillion (USD 13 billion) worth of food.  It consisted of beef, wheat, rice, soybean, fish, salt, potato, among others, which has negative consequences to people’s livelihoods, especially women.  As a result of the highly increase of food import, particularly in fishery sector, this finally led the sector to absorb a very low labor force.  In 2009-2011, fish processing industry only absorbed 250,000 labor force.

The WTO has also undermined Indonesia’s sovereignty. In January 2013, the United States filed a complaint against Government of Indonesia’s (GOI) policy for horticulture import. Indonesia was accused for being overprotective and the US urged Indonesia to open its market.  Shortly thereafter, US questioned GOI’s subsidy policy for shrimp farmers and called it dumping practice.  A few years ago, there was a fierce dispute over clove cigarette as well in the WTO.

The WTO free trade regime has been threatening our nation’s rights and dignity to determine our own food and agriculture policies for the benefit of our own people.  The provisions in WTO (and also FTAs) clearly undermine our people’s food sovereignty: they destroy our domestic market and prices.  

 Therefore, Gerak Lawan urges:

1. The President of Indonesia to impose a moratorium on international free-trade agreements and also implement strong evaluations on various free trade agreements that have been signed before, both in the WTO, regional and bilateral FTAs, which are detrimental to our national interest and are contrary to the Indonesian 1945 Constitution.

 2.The House of Representatives to immediately cancel the drafting of Trade Law, which in our analysis could devastate our economic sovereignty as the proposed draft law is still adopting free-trade principles of the WTO.

3. Regarding APEC and the WTO meetings which will take place in Bali, Indonesia in late 2013, we urge the President and the House to not using this momentum to further liberalize Indonesia’s strategic sectors and bind Indonesia into various free trade agreements, especially food and agriculture sectors that would further impoverishment and marginalization of our people.

Gerak Lawan invites Indonesian people, especially farmers, fisher folk, small and micro industries, workers—including migrants, and women to be actively involved in the resistance against free trade in all sectors. We also invite people to report the negative impacts of free trade directly to GOI or through our coordination posts “Forum Buka Kuping” in many areas.  The resistance against the WTO is also resistance against other free trade agreements that harm the interests of the people.


The Indonesian People’s Movement against Neocolonialism-Imperialism(Gerak-Lawan) includes the following organisations: Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ) – Bina Desa – Serikat Petani Indonesia/Indonesian Peasant Union (SPI) – Solidaritas Perempuan/Women Solidarity (SP) – Aliansi Petani Indonesia/Indonesian Peasant Alliance (API) – Indonesian Human Right Committee for Social Justice (IHCS) – Komisi untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Kekerasan/Commission for “The Disappeared” and Victims of Violence (KONTRAS) – Indonesian Civil Society Forum on Climate Justice (CSF) – Koalisi Anti Utang/Anti Debt Coalition (KAU) – Koalisi Rakyat untuk Keadilan Perikanan/People’s Coalition for Fishery Justice (KIARA) – Institut Hijau Indonesia/Indonesian Green Institute (IHI) – Lingkar Madani untuk Indonesia/Civil Circle for Indonesia (LIMA) – Jaringan Advokasi Tambang/Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) – Aliansi Jurnalis Independen/Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI Jakarta), Front Perjuangan Pemuda Indonesia/Front of Indonesian Youths’ Struggle (FPPI), Lingkar Studi-Aksi untuk Demokrasi Indonesia/Study-Action for Indonesian Democracy (LS-ADI), Serikat Nelayan Indonesia/Indonesian Fishers Union (SNI), Kesatuan Nelayan Tradisional Indonesia/Association of Indonesian Traditional Fishermen (KNTI), Serikat Buruh Indonesia/Indonesian Labor Union (SBI).