In an interview, Malaysian Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, the Hon. Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong, considers the impact of recent actions in Europe that are against the interests of the palm oil industry.
How does Malaysia view the EU Parliament’s vote in April to adopt the ‘Resolution on Palm Oil and Deforestation of Rainforests’?
The Resolution makes multiple unjust accusations against the palm oil industry, without offering any evidence. It does not recognise the positive and essential socio-economic role that palm oil plays in producer countries, by reducing poverty and enabling prosperity for millions of small farmers. It is highly disappointing, and highly unusual, that a trading partner would take such a confrontational approach.
As the EU works on formalising its sustainability requirements into law, what course of action does Malaysia have in mind?
What is critical now is that we in Malaysia – the government and private sector – must formulate a comprehensive and fully-resourced strategy to defend Malaysia’s trade interests in Europe. Securing continued market access for Malaysian palm oil is the over-riding objective.
The Resolution aims at phasing out the use of palm oil in the EU’s biofuels production by 2020. Analysts estimate that the EU uses 3-3.5 million tonnes of its palm oil imports for this purpose. Is this a significant volume in terms of Malaysia’s exports?
The volume is not the key factor in this issue – rather, it is the principle that the EU must not discriminate against palm oil. The proposal is unacceptable. It also does not make sense, as it would deprive Europe of an excellent year-round supply of feedstock that is sustainably produced.
This is not the first case of discrimination against palm oil in Europe. Just as Malaysia took a strong stance against the ‘Nutella tax’ proposal in France, we will be equally firm in resisting the process to give legal effect to the Resolution.
Could we confirm that the Malaysian government has engaged lawyers to prepare for a scenario where the Resolution may be enforced by law?
It is important to remember that Malaysia and other palm oil-producing countries had communicated facts about palm oil to the MEP Rapporteur in the European Parliament and to others ahead of the April 4 vote on the Resolution.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister has since made it very clear that, whenever there is discrimination, we will retaliate. The correct course of action may not necessarily be legal action, but a comprehensive strategy to defend our products and secure market access in Europe.