Watchdog groups are calling on the government to protect Indonesia’s agriculture sector in the ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) member preparatory talks by supporting a proposal made by 46 developing countries seeking to raise the limit of allowable subsidized stockpiles.

Advanced countries, however, have responded to the proposal by proposing a peace clause stipulating that they can subsidize developing countries’ agriculture sector for only four years.

Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ) executive director Riza Damanik said that Indonesia should reject the peace clause as the country would not be able to improve its agricultural sector and set itself on par with the growth of advanced countries’ agricultural industries within only four years.

“Furthermore, the subsidy limitation will likely disrupt the food supply, thereby threatening Indonesia’s food sovereignty and security,” he said in an open letter to Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan made available to The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Additionally, he said, the increased agricultural subsidy limit demanded by the 46 countries, which call themselves the G33, would also increase local farmers’ welfare and secure the food supply.

He added that instead of focusing on the trade facilitation deal, the government should allocate more time to discuss strategies on how to get the WTO to approve the G33 proposal.

Collective Research Network (JeRK) analyst Hizkia Yosie echoed Riza’s sentiments, saying that the trade facilitation deal could cause Indonesia to be exploited by advanced countries.

“Advanced countries seek to exploit our farmers by making them produce food stuffs that will be exported by their companies to strengthen their economic hegemony,” he told a press conference on Saturday.

He said that companies from advanced countries spent a lot of money for agricultural research in Indonesia to impose their own food production quality and capacity standards on the country.

He added that agricultural market research commissioned by firms from advanced countries was a modern form of colonization because it forced farmers to plant a particular commodity based on market demands.

“For example, when soybean sales figures increase, companies will tell corn farmers to plant soybean. So now our farmers also have a burden to fulfill international market demands,” he said.

Dodi Mantra from the Indonesian Young Workers Alliance (APPI) said that the government should protect Indonesian farmers from the WTO, an institution he saw as infringing on national sovereignty.

“The government should not let Indonesian farmers be ordered around by foreign companies,” he told a press conference on Saturday.

Previously, the Indonesian government had expressed its support of the G33 proposal.

Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said in an earlier statement that agricultural subsidy talks among WTO members had accelerated as developed countries, particularly the United States, were more amenable toward accepting the G33 proposal.

Riza said that the government should continue to take a firm stance in supporting the G33 proposal despite strong political pressure from advanced countries that might cause developing countries to capitulate. (ogi)