Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia Xiao Qian has said that he is “very concerned” about Indonesia’s plan to possibly impose food import restrictions from China as fears grow that the coronavirus could spread into the country through imported goods.

“I think if Indonesia implements the restriction, there will be a negative impact,” he told the press in Jakarta on Tuesday.

He went on to say that there was currently no evidence that the 2019-nCoV virus could spread from imported items and that the trade restriction was against the World Health Organization’s recommendation.

Indonesia is set to temporarily stop imports of live animals from China and is mulling a plan to ban imports of other products, including food and beverages.

Trade Minister Agus Suparmanto told reporters on Monday that the measure would be put in place as soon as Tuesday and would remain in place until the virus is contained.

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The minister said that Indonesia “will obviously stop live animal imports from China” while also considering banning other products. He added that the government would only stop imports of products that could potentially spread the coronavirus.

“Such a decision would be detrimental to our trade relations and can cause effects that we do not want to see,” Xiao said, adding that China had been Indonesia’s largest trading partner for eight years with a positive trade trend.

Indonesia imported US$44.5 billion worth of non-oil and gas products from China throughout 2019, representing almost 30 percent of overall such imports into Indonesia. The country imports garlic and fruit, among other products, from China.

Indonesia also imposed a travel ban to and from China starting at 12 a.m. on Monday to prevent the spread of the deadly and highly contagious novel coronavirus. The travel ban, originally imposed on Jan. 23 for those traveling to and from Wuhan city only, was expanded to include the entire country.

“[The ban] actually harms Indonesia’s tourism and economy,” Xiao said, adding that the impact from the restrictive measures still needed to be assessed. (eyc)