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Nur Aisha Abd. Wahab


New Straits Times



Palm oil exporters back govt to retaliate on France, Norway and the EU's palm oil ban

New Straits Times (01/02/2019) - KUALA LUMPUR: Oil palm planters, millers refiners and palm oil exporters in Malaysia strongly support the government to retaliate on European nations’ plan to ban palm biodiesel.

The players, represented by Palm Oil Industry Forum (POIF), said France and Norway's plan to ban palm biodiesel from 2020 was hurting diplomatic relations and hindering talks for free trade agreements.

“These two nations’ ban on palm oil is discriminatory because it leads to favouring Europe's homegrown oil crop such as rapeseed and sunflower.

“We strongly encourage the Malaysian government not to have any trade dealings with France, Norway and the EU until and unless the issue of palm oil ban is resolved,” POIF said in a statement today. 

This was in response to International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming’s recent statement that it would be difficult for Malaysia to restart those talks with the European Union (EU) if palm oil trade is not being pointed in the right direction. 

The EU-Malaysia free trade agreement negotiation was initiated in 2010 but it was set aside in 2012. The EU bloc, headquartered in Brussels, consists of 28 member states.

Ambassador and head of EU delegations to Malaysia Maria Castillo Fernandez had time and again, expressed interests to revive the EU-Malaysia free trade agreement talks.

Ong, justifiably, poured cold water on her aspirations.

“If we don't see any progress on the palm oil issue, then restarting the Malaysia-EU free trade agreement talks will be challenging,” he had said on January 16, 2019, at the sidelines of the World Bank International Conference on Globalisation: Contents and Discontents.

On January 21, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah released a statement that Malaysia and other nine members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) had deferred the upgrade of long-standing relations with the EU to a "strategic partnership”.

This, Saifuddin explained in concurrence with Indonesia’s deputy foreign minister Abdurrahman Mohammad Fachir, was due to EU’s plan to ban palm biodiesel that would hurt Asean's socio-economic interests.

The newly-formed POIF is a common platform that represented key stakeholders of businesses that plant oil palms, mill and refine the palm oil into cooking oil, oleochemicals and biodiesel. 

Palm oil exporters, who familiar with vegetable oils taxes in neighbouring and consuming countries, are also represented in POIF.

The POIF held its first meeting on January 16.

Among key participants were representatives from the East Malaysia Association (EMPA), Incorporated Society of Planters (ISP), Malayan Agricultural Producers Association (Mapa), Malaysian Estate Owners Association (MEOA), Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA), Palm Oil Millers Association (POMA) and Palm Oil Refiners Association of Malaysia (Poram). 

In its statement, POIF highlighted that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had warned France President Emmanuel Macron that Malaysia would consider laws to restrict imports of French products if Paris did not withdraw plans to ban palm biodiesel.

French lawmakers had on December 19 last year voted to remove palm oil from the country's biofuel scheme, starting January 2020.

Norwegian lawmakers too, on December 3 last year, legislated to ban palm biodiesel by December 2020.

In his January 8 letter to Macron, Dr Mahathir had stated that if France persisted on banning palm oil, Malaysia would be forced to suspend free trade talks with the EU and impose similar sanctions against French exports.

In the early 1980s, Dr Mahathir had launched the “Buy British Last” campaign in response to the UK government charging higher tuition fees on foreign students. 

Recently, a number of economists said Dr Mahathir might, as a last resort, launch a “Buy French Last” policy based on the letter to Macron forewarning retaliative measures on France’s exports.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu had in last July said the Royal Malaysian Air Force had 18 Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30MKM and 10 MiG-29 fighter jets but only four were able to take to the skies.

Malaysia has long considered France’s Rafale jet, built by Dassault Aviation SA, as the frontrunner to replace the Russian MiG-29s that are now mostly grounded.

Read more at https://www.nst.com.my/business/2019/02/456411/palm-oil-exporters-back-govt-retaliate-france-norway-and-eus-palm-oil-ban