We understand that this may test the World Trade Organisation’s rules on discrimination. Is this the only available avenue to contest the matter?
Many avenues are available to us in Europe and internationally. It is important to remember that trade is a two-way street. The EU cannot discriminate against a major Malaysian product without expecting some form of retaliation.
As at June, seven European countries have signed The Amsterdam Declaration in Support of a Fully Sustainable Palm Oil Supply Chain by 2020. How do you view this development?
I welcome all efforts to support palm oil. Malaysia is able to produce and supply sustainable palm oil to customers. The Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification scheme is our guarantee of sustainability. It was drawn up based on domestic laws and regulations. What is just as important is that trade moves by importing countries are inclusive and non-discriminatory.
How are oil palm smallholders being assisted in achieving MSPO certification?
The Malaysian palm oil industry is an economic lifeline for 650,000 small farmers; they, too, need equal opportunities for global market access by being able to offer a certified sustainable commodity. The government has therefore allocated RM130 million, to be utilised mainly in helping them meet the auditing expenses arising out of the MSPO certification process. Smallholdings currently make up 2.3 million ha or 40% of the 5.7 million ha under oil palm in Malaysia.
The financial allocation targets the certification of 500,000 ha by the end of this year, with the remainder to be covered by the end of 2019, when the MSPO becomes mandatory.
How should the affixing of the ‘No palm oil’ label on food products be countered around Europe, now that a court has ruled against this?
The Belgian court’s ruling in June in the Ferrero-Delhaize case has clearly indicated that the ‘No palm oil’ label and advertisements denigrating palm oil are illegal. Companies in Europe now need to end their campaigns against palm oil, while governments should enact regulations to prevent all unwarranted attacks.
This is of great importance to Malaysia. Our exports of palm oil and palm products to the EU were valued at RM10.23 billion last year, accounting for 15% of total exports.