China trade under fire

BEIJING: The ASEAN Free Trade Area' (CAFTA) which came into effect from

January 1 is under fire in Indonesia prompting the government to call for renegotiating the pact.

Local businesses are worried about what they term as 'unfair competition' from low-cost Chinese imports.

The CAFTA would eliminate tariffs on 7,000 products that account for 90 percent of products traded between China and ASEAN.

Already, Indonesia is reeling under the onslaught of low-cost Chinese clothes, toys and electronic goods, which are often smuggled into the country. Opening the borders would further hurt its indigenous enterprise. Local business leaders are also upset that they were not 'consulted' while negotiations with China were

underway. The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has taken up the issue with ASEAN suggesting that the Free Trade pact with China should be delayed by one year until January 2010.

'We (ASEAN) must delay zero tariffs on steel, chemicals, textiles and a host of other items to give time to local business more time to adjust', Indonesian officials said in a communication sent to ASEAN on January 13.

Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines and Singapore are covered under the 'China-ASEAN Free Trade Area' in the first phase.

Rest of ASEAN namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam will implement the agreement from 2015. They have been given this lee-way as they are in the Least Developed Countries (LDC) bracket.