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Monday, September 27, 1999 Published at 21:52 GMT 22:52 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Indonesia snubs Australian trade

Indonesia may stop buying key Australian export crops

The Indonesian Government has offered to help importing businesses find new sources of goods rather than buy Australian in protest against Canberra's stand over the East Timor crisis.

East Timor
The Indonesian Trade and Industry Minister Rahardi Ramelan said suppliers in India, China, West Africa and Egypt would replace Australian exporters of wheat, cotton and sugar.

While Indonesia does not appear to be imposing an official trade boycott, Australian officials have voiced concern.

[ image: Anti-Australian protests in Jakarta]
Anti-Australian protests in Jakarta
"It appears to be an offer of help to those who may want to shun Australian products," said Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile.

Australia is leading the UN force to end a wave of violence in East Timor following a referendum that opted for independence from Indonesia.

Anti-Australia protests have been staged almost daily across Indonesia since the force went in a week ago.

Cotton custom

Australia counts Indonesia, the world's fourth-most populous nation, as its main customer for cotton, an export trade worth $1.6bn Australian dollars (US$1.04bn) last year.

Indonesia is also a key customer for wheat and raw sugar.

Australian cotton and wheat exporters voiced disappointment on Monday.

"If there is some government directive like that then obviously that is a threat to our industry," said Gordon Cherry, chairman of the Australian Cotton Shippers Association.

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