While I am in Indonesia for an EU funded project to assist Indonesia to improve its trade and investment climate (TCF), I came across an example where IP rights and trade might collide. In this case export. In the Jakarta Post of July 17, an article was published about failing food safety for food products destined for export. Indonesia’s food exports are suffering as foreign nations are declining to admit locally produced goods that they say contain tainted ingredients, like sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), containing hazardous substances or excessive added preservatives, or having levels of sulfites above accepted international limits. Or products tainted with hazardous substances such as aflatoxin, a naturally occurring toxin produced by mold, which was found in peanut sauce used to make pecel, a blanched vegetable salad.
This is not just a matter of insufficient quality control in the food sector. If Indonesia were to create a level of “branded” soy sauce like the Ethiopians did with their coffee in its so called Ethiopian Fine Coffee Trademarking and Licensing Initiative, soy sauce –or any food substance that is to be exported – could be traded under a specially developed “brand” or trademark. That “brand” would stand for high quality products, that are made according to strict quality standards and compliance criteria. Those goods would be branded (a trademark would be attached) to those products forcing buyers of these branded products (or commodities) to always refer to or attach that particular Indonesian brand whenever and wherever they use the products. So even if they would use this soy sauce –to stay with that example – under their own local branded name (Unilever, Nestle, you name it) that company must always add somewhere on the packaging the Indonesian brand so as to guarantee the place of origin and strict quality rules. This would lead to (1) a greater visibility of Indonesia’s strenghts in these products, would give customers the assurances that they deal with “real & original” Indonesian branded products and hence improve export. This could be done via added licensing conditions to the export of those products.
This can only be done in close cooperation between IPR and food Quality agencies like Indonesia’s National Drug and Food Monitoring Agency’s (BPOM).