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A new regional trade deal raises tensions between two rising economic powers.
“The notification we sent to the ASEAN Council last week stipulates we want a renegotiation,” Indonesia’s Minister for Industry Mohammad Suleman Hidayat, told The Jakarta Post.
The Chinese, for their part, said they would adhere to the already signed agreement and tried to assuage fears among Indonesian industries.
“Such worries are understandable,” said Yi Ziaozhun, China’s deputy minister for commerce at the deal’s opening ceremony. “But the free trade agreement is mutually beneficial. Policymakers from both regions have reached a consensus that trade pressures would ultimately be transformed into an impetus that drives the economic development of the whole region.”
Concerns here over an influx of Chinese goods are nothing new. Tariffs have been gradually reduced since 2005 and black market Chinese goods have long plagued traders of all kinds.
Indonesian producers of batik, the country’s proud tradition of creating intricate patterns on textiles with wax-resistant dyes, for instance, were outraged earlier last year when cheap batik knockoffs from China began muscling in on their market share.
At the famous Tanah Abang Market in central Jakarta, sellers there have already long begun offering their customers Chinese-made alternatives at much cheaper prices — a decision they said wasn’t by choice.
“We sell Chinese-made products here because the customers prefer them,” said Ferry, 26, who sells garments from the basement of Tanah Abang. “They like China’s clothes because they come in more diverse styles, materials and colors and are always either the same price or cheaper.”