19 Apr 2012

Key confident Indonesia beef dispute can be solved

9:45 am on 19 April 2012

Prime Minister John Key and Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have signed cooperation agreements covering four areas but did not directly address restrictions on beef imports.

The agreements signed on Tuesday during Mr Key's visit to Indonesia cover agriculture, environment, labour and geothermal energy.


New Zealand will also be appointing another trade commissioner to the region.

Mr Key said the labour and environment agreements recognise that regulations in these areas should not be weakened to encourage trade or investment, nor used for trade protectionist purposes.

Mr Key says the issue of restrictions on beef imports into Indonesia was not directly addressed at the talks but he is confident of a positive outcome to the problem.

Indonesia has put strict quotas on beef imports from all markets, including the United States and Australia.

Mr Key says while that almost certainly breaches the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand free-trade agreement, it was only talked about in broad terms at the meeting.

He says he reassured Mr Yudhoyono that New Zealand does not want to put Indonesian farmers out of business.

Trade Minister Tim Groser, who is in Jakarta, also said he was optimistic about finding a way through the problem.

Mr Groser said trade agreements don't solve everything overnight, rather they provide a framework for expanding a relationship and settling disputes.

"This will not be the last trade dispute we have with Indonesia, unfortunately, I can assure you of that."


Mr Key said the Government may consider having more people on the ground in Indonesia to manage asylum-seekers trying to get to New Zealand.

He said it is only a matter of time before a boat full of asylum-seekers makes it to New Zealand's shores.

The Australian government has a strong presence in Indonesia, working with local authorities, he says - and that is an approach New Zealand can explore.