The import tax will be raised to up to 10 percent on 1,147 mostly consumer goods, from an existing 2.5 percent to 7.5 percent, effective next week, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati told a news briefing.
"We want to be alert, but we also want to be selective. These are unusual times, so we are carrying out measures that we wouldn't do during normal times," Indrawati said.
The battered currency has been one of emerging Asia's worst performers as investors dump assets as U.S. rates rise and amid fear of contagion from crises in Argentina and Turkey.
Tariffs will be kept at 2.5 percent for raw materials used by the manufacturing industry because of the important role in domestic production, Indrawati said.
Consumer goods such as ceramics, audio speakers and swimwear will have a 7.5 percent import tax applied. Products that can be made domestically ranging from soap and shampoo to kitchen appliances will be taxed at 10 percent.
Luxury cars will also be taxed at 10 percent, while Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto said the import of cars with engine capacity of 3,000 cc and above will be stopped.
"This is a good chance for local producers to penetrate our own domestic market that is usually filled with imported goods," Indrawati said.
Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said the higher taxes did not breach free trade rules set by the World Trade Organisation because importers can offset the tariffs on their tax liabilities.
Government data showed goods covered by the taxes were worth $5 billion in the first eight months of this year and $6.6 billion throughout 2017.
The government will also relax rules on coal, palm oil and rattan exports, Lukita said, without providing details.
It is unclear whether importers would pass on the higher tariffs to consumers, though Lukita predicted the impact on inflation would be minimal.
Some manufacturers relying on imported raw materials are already feeling the impact from the rupiah's slump.
Agus Nurudin, managing director of market researcher Nielsen Indonesia, expects the price of food containing dairy, soy, beef and wheat to rise if the rupiah falls further. - Reuters
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