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Chinese analysts criticize Indonesia's reported import ban, warn against discrimination

2020-02-11

Source:Globaltimes    Published: 2020-02-03


Chinese experts close to the government on Monday slammed a reported decision by Indonesia's government to ban imports of Chinese food and beverages due to the coronavirus outbreak, and warned countries against using the epidemic as an excuse for discriminating against Chinese products and companies.


Amid growing discriminatory and even racist conspiracies in Indonesia about the deadly virus, Indonesian Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto said on Monday that the country would stop imports of food and drinks from China temporarily, according to Indonesian news outlet iNews.id.


Suparmanto said that the decision was to protect the Indonesian public and that the country would seek replacements for the Chinese products from other countries, according to the iNews.id report.


Indonesia's decision was made without evidence that the imports could carry the coronavirus and it could hurt Indonesia's credibility as a trading partner, said Mei Xinyu, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.


"It is really absurd because there is no evidence that imports from China could bring health risks," Mei told the Global Times on Monday, adding that all exports and imports are properly inspected by both countries for health and other risks. "We might have to reassess Indonesia's credibility as a trading partner."


On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO), while declaring the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, stated specifically that there was no reason for unnecessary measures to interfere with international travel and trade. "The WHO doesn't recommend limiting trade and movement," Mei said.


Indonesia's reported decision follows a slew of what experts in China call over-the-top measures from the US, which has banned any foreign national who has been in China from entering its borders and issued its highest-level travel warning for China.


China's Foreign Ministry on Monday slammed overreactions from countries, particularly the US, while expressing appreciation and respect toward most countries for enhanced health inspection for Chinese nationals.


"There are some countries, the US in particular, that have overreacted to China's epidemic and taken excessive measures in clear deviation from the WHO's recommendations," Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the ministry, said during an online press briefing on Monday.


He Weiwen, a former senior Chinese trade official, said that measures by Indonesia and the US would not be in violation of WTO rules for global trade if they were based on actual concerns about the virus.


"But if some countries want to seize on the epidemic as an excuse to discriminate against Chinese products and companies, then certainly China will have to respond in kind," He told the Global Times on Monday. He said that China could also file complaints with the WTO if some countries take "unreasonable" measures.


Indonesia's reported decision on Monday comes amid widespread conspiracy theories in the country targeting Chinese nationals and products, and some have even taken a sinister and racist turn, Foreign Policy reported on Friday.


There has also been a great deal of hostility from Washington toward China, as the country officially designated China as a strategic rival and has waged a trade and technology war on China.


He Weiwen is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: Coronavirus   Discrimination   He Weiwen   RDCY  

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