Indonesia and the US must settle their chicken parts dispute through a bilateral forum, says the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The US ambassador to Indonesia proposed diplomatic talks in February, after a ban on quartered chicken and parts from the US was implemented because of doubts over the "halal" status of such imports.

The matter remained unsolved however, and the US embassy in Jakarta asked US representatives within the WTO to discuss the issue during the Committee on Agriculture (COA) from 22-30 March. In Geneva however, the WTO concluded that the dispute must be solved through a series of bilateral meetings between the two countries. 

"Based on the results of a consultation between Indonesian delegation and the country's representatives in the WTO, the discussion on the ban on chicken imports from the US should be conducted through bilateral channels," explained Sofyan Sudradjat, director general for development of livestock production.

The first meeting, held on 23 March, concentrated on the status of halal (allowable food for Moslems) when applied to chicken parts from the US. Sofyan commented: "At the time it was agreed that the certification system on halal between the two countries needed to be further formulated."

An agreement on halal status may not herald the end of the dispute, however. A fortnight later Sofyan now admits that Indonesia may yet choose to focus on allegations that the chicken imported from the US is bought in at a low price and "dumped" on the local market.