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Jakarta Post

Indonesia reviews Chinese imports restrictions over coronavirus concerns

  • Made Anthony Iswara

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, January 27, 2020   /   04:58 pm
Indonesia reviews Chinese imports restrictions over coronavirus concerns Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

The Trade Ministry is coordinating with the Health Ministry on whether to impose import restrictions on goods from China, Indonesia’s largest trading partner, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus responsible for a rising death toll in China into Indonesia.

"We will observe and evaluate it given that the occurrence is new and it's developing quickly. We need to anticipate matters," Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto told reporters in Jakarta on Monday.

Any possible import restrictions could stymie local importers as China is Indonesia's top import source. However, a lack of preemptive measures could risk the virus spreading to Indonesia. The Health Ministry is still studying the impact on imported products, added Agus.

Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo said his ministry had strengthened oversight at gates for imported products by tightening check-up procedures.

“Every product that comes in, be it food, fruit or anything else, for the time being imports of those products can be limited. Therefore, excessive fears are not necessary, although tighter biosecurity measures must be imposed at our entrance gates,” Syahrul said in Jakarta on Monday.

Indonesia imported US$44.5 billion of non-oil and gas products from China throughout 2019, representing almost 30 percent of overall such imports into Indonesia.

According to Statistics Indonesia (BPS), fruit imports from China more than doubled to $134.42 million in November 2019 alone from $64.17 million in the same period last year. From January to November last year, fruit imports totaled $1.24 billion, up 9.61 percent from $1.13 billion in the same period last year, with China, Japan and Thailand dominating as the countries of origin.

Overall, however, Agus said the coronavirus spread would not influence Indonesia's trade with China or other affected countries.

Agus said exports were still running "according to procedures" of the destination country. He also denied claims that exports to China would decrease following the outbreak.

"I don't think that such a situation [export decrease] will happen as [China] continues to be our customer. And China is an enormous country with around 1.7 billion people, so the potential is immense," Agus said.

Indonesia exported $25.8 billion worth of non-oil and gas products to China in 2019, an increase of 5.9 percent from the previous year, representing 17 percent of total exports.

Having similarities to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the coronavirus had killed 80 people as of Monday morning in China, with hundreds of new infections being reported despite the local government’s quarantine efforts. 

Starting in Wuhan, the viral epidemic has now spread around the world, including Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, as confirmed infections surged to nearly 2,000 people, various sources have reported. 

Aside from potential trade restrictions, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi has said the government will discuss on Monday the issuance of a travel warning from Indonesia to China as the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in the East Asian country rapidly increases.