“Say No to Free Trade”: Workers Protest ASEAN-China FTA In Bandung

Thousands of workers from throughout West Java held a rally in Bandung, urging the provincial government to propose that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono postpone the implementation of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement.

“I’m afraid that forcing this [FTA] will lead to millions of workers being laid off because of the relatively higher prices of Indonesian goods compared to those from China,” said Baharudin Simbolon of the Association of Indonesian Labor Union’s West Java chapter, during the rally outside the governor’s office.

Interestingly, workers have found some support from both the West Java Manpower Agency chief Mustopa Djamaludin and the Indonesian Employers Association (APINDO), who has its own anxiety regarding the Free Trade Agreement and the ability of Indonesian products to compete on the international market.

Separately, the deputy chairman of the Association of Indonesian Businesspeople (APINDO) West Java chapter, Deddy Wijaya, said there up to 40,000 workers would be laid off in just three months following the implementation of the ASEAN-China FTA, with up to 30 percent of the 8,000 members of the association facing bankruptcy.

With the leader of the West Java chapter of the Association of Indonesian Labor Union also stating his concern about the burden of banking interest rates on domestic business, one might wonder whether there is some common ground to be used on this issue between domestic capital and labor.

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