Jokowi's close aide denies Indonesia will ban food imports from China amid coronavirus fears

"No, we have no such plan," said minister Luhut Pandjaitan, when asked about the plan to ban China's imports. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Indonesia will not ban food and beverages imports from China amid the growing spread of the coronavirus, said a close aide of President Joko Widodo, refuting comments by another minister.

"No, we have no such plan," Mr Luhut Pandjaitan, coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment, told The Straits Times on Monday night (Feb 3) when asked about the plan to ban China's imports.

The remarks by Mr Luhut countered an earlier comment by trade minister Agus Suparmanto, who said earlier on Monday that the ban would be put in place soon and would remain in place until "the virus problem has ended", according to a Reuters report.

Reuters reported on Monday that Indonesia will temporarily stop such imports as a precaution to prevent the deadly spread of the coronavirus, which originated in the city of Wuhan in China's Hubei province.

According to a Global Times report, China was not happy with Mr Agus' comments on plans to ban Chinese food imports.

"It is understandable if any country takes necessary measures in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, but if a country uses it as an excuse to discriminate against Chinese products, China will have to take equal measures to protect its legitimate rights," Global Times reported citing He Weiwen, a former trade official.

China is Indonesia's biggest trade partner, importing about 15 per cent of Indonesia's total exports.

China buys coal, stainless steel and palm oil from Indonesia, while South-east Asia's largest economy buys fruit, spices and other food and beverages from China.

The number of confirmed deaths from the coronavirus outbreak has spiked to 425, with more than 20,000 confirmed cases in China, according to Chinese authorities on Tuesday.

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