Mon, 14 Dec 2009
Hoping to prevent cheap Chinese products from flooding domestic markets, the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce is calling on the government to tighten quality controls at the nation’s import gates.

Local manufacturers have voiced concerns about being unprepared for the Asean-China Free-Trade Agreement, which will reduce thousands of trade tariffs on Chinese goods to zero to 5 percent starting on Jan. 1. Producers are worried they won’t be able to compete against cheaper Chinese imports.

“[Tighter controls are] our second strategy. The first is that we will ask again [for the FTA] to be delayed, but [tightening controls at ports] should slow poor-quality products from flooding into our market,” Benny Soetriso, deputy chairman for trade, logistics and distribution at the chamber, also known as Kadin, said on Friday.

To guard against cheap, low-quality goods entering the nation, the Trade Ministry issued a decree in 2008 requiring that imports of clothing, footwear, food and beverages, electronics and toys could only be enter the country through five main ports by registered importers.

On top of this restriction, Benny said that the government should also enforce rules that imported products have passed national quality standards. These regulations apply to all imports of finished goods, but particular scrutiny is given to the five key products, he said.

To meet international guidelines on quality, the government has been enforcing the Indonesian National Standards (SNI) certification process on all finished-good imports since 2001.

Certification for shipments of raw materials, however, is voluntary.

The Trade Ministry has recently clamped down on illegal imports of goods from China, with cement and steel lacking SNI certification rejected by customs officials.

However, an importer of steel products last month complained that the SNI rules did not apply to raw materials. He said the certification regime was being used to unfairly block competition from China.

Responding to Benny’s comments, Sofjan Wanandi, the chairman of Indonesia Business Association (Apindo), said on Friday that whatever steps were taken, they should not “stain our country’s name among Asean countries.”

“It seems the government signed [the FTA agreement] for prestige alone. This is partly our fault because we did not prepare our domestic industries even if we have signed the agreement,” Sofjan said.

“But if there’s nothing that can be done to delay it, the government should talk to businesses about necessary steps to ensure that local producers are not badly affected, such as tariff and nontariff policies or antidumping duties,” Sofjan added.

On Friday, Industry Minister MS Hidayat met with the Trade Ministry to finalize a list of sectors in the trade agreement that the government hoped to renegotiate with the Asean after the FTA was implemented.

The plan was submitted to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa, he announced on Saturday. Dian Ariffahmi & Dion Bisara



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