INDONESIA’s trade minister Enggartiasto “Enggar” Lukita has suggested that imported Australian wines may in future require halal certification, as a response to Canberra “undermining” the trade of Indonesian paper and tobacco products.
Amidst negotiations between the two nations towards a free trade deal, Enggar said he had recently raised the idea with Australian trade minister Steven Ciobo in response to restrictions on Indonesian exports perceived as unfair.
“We facilitate imports of Australian beef. But I am devastated by the barriers slapped on our tobacco and A4 paper,” said Enggar on Thursday as quoted by The Jakarta Post.
Indonesia has opposed Australia’s world-first regulation to have plain-packaged cigarettes since the law was implemented in 2012, joining other tobacco-producing nations in filing a complaint against Australia at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
“I told Steve that I would consider requiring Australian wine sold in Indonesia to also have plain packaging and pass halal certification, but I deliver it in a light way though, and it was just an expression of my resentment,” said Enggar.
Indonesia already imposes significant taxes on imported goods, particularly alcohol. The average bottle of imported wine sells for between 200,000 and 400,000 Rupiah (US$20-40).
In March, Ciobo announced that there would be a review into a ruling that Indonesia had dumped A4 copy paper in Australia, which had spurred the implementation of an anti-dumping tariff against Indonesia.
Bilateral relations between the neighbours have been highly sensitive for decades, with recent tensions arising over the death penalty, espionage, asylum seekers, trade disputes and Indonesia’s sovereignty over East Timor and West Papua.
Indonesia temporarily withdrew its ambassador in Canberra in 2014 over revelations Australia had bugged the phone of then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife in 2009.
In the wake of the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran for drug crimes in 2015, Australia’s ambassador in Jakarta was recalled for a month.
Relations have improved markedly under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo making his first state visit to Australia in February.
PM Malcolm Turnbull dan Ibu Lucy Turnbull menerima kami dengan kehangatan dan persahabatan -Jkw pic.twitter.com/AKXzZtCUyE
— Joko Widodo (@jokowi) February 25, 2017
Nevertheless, the friendship was again tested earlier in the year by a controversy over allegedly offensive material that was found at an Australian army base.
As a result, Indonesia temporarily suspended military cooperation with its southern neighbour.