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Indonesia President Jokowi Asks Malaysia PM Muhyiddin to Join Fight against EU’s Discriminatory Palm Oil Policies


A worker collects palm oil fruits at a state-run plantation in Bogor, West Java, on Jan. 6, 2021. (BeritaSatu Photo/Mohammad Defrizal)

JAKARTA –  World’s largest palm oil producers Indonesia and Malaysia reiterated their commitment to fighting off negative campaign and discriminatory policy against their palm oil-based products, when the leaders of both countries met in Jakarta on Friday.

In December 2019, Indonesia filed a complaint to the World Trade Organization over European Union’s campaign against palm oil using allegations of negative health and environmental impacts.

“Indonesia continues the fight against palm oil discrimination. Our fight will begin to bite if we do it together and Indonesia is hoping that Malaysia shares the same commitment regarding this palm oil issue,” Presiden Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said in a joint press conference with visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin at the State Palace.

The Malaysian leader said his government has followed Indonesia’s step by lodging a similar complaint to the WTO on January 15.

The European Commission adopted in March 2019 what has become known as the delegated act, which classifies palm oil as unsustainable. The bloc has gone further by saying that palm oil industry is to blame for rain forest destruction.

The European Commission delegation to Indonesia has said that from 2008 to 2015, “45 percent of oil palm plantation expansion took place in high carbon stock areas”.

Muhyiddin said EU’s allegations are without merit and that its discriminatory policy against palm oil is against WTO’s fair trade principles.

“I just told Mr. President that Malaysia also filed a lawsuit against the EU at the WTO on January 15, 2021, similar to what Indonesia did in December 2019,” he said.

Friday’s meeting was the second time the leaders of the two Southeast Asian countries forged commitment to fight off the EU on palm oil issue.

In August 2019, Jokowi received a visit by then Prime Minister Mahathit Mohamad to form a united front in the face of EU’s discriminatory policies against their palm oil exports.

At that time, the two neighbors agreed to sustainable palm oil processing and management. Indonesia, for instance, acquired palm oil certifications and scientific data to counter the current narrative that palm oil is the main destroyer of rain forests in the world — compared to similar commodities like soybean and rapeseed.

Indonesia is currently the world’s largest supplier of palm oil, where 15 million of the 50 million tons of the palm oil produced in Indonesia is absorbed by the domestic market. The biggest foreign importers of palm oil are India, China, and the European Union respectively.

The palm oil industry employs over 16 million people and contributes an average of $20 billion a year, according to government data.

On the global anti-palm oil campaign, especially in Europe, Australia and Oceania, Muhyiddin said Indonesia and Malaysia, as the two biggest producers of the commodity, would continue to cooperate in tackling the discrimination.

“This is to ensure that we can protect the palm oil industry, especially the millions of smallholders whose livelihoods are fully dependent on this industry in Malaysia and Indonesia,” he added.

On the Myanmar issue, Muhyiddin said Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta view with serious concern the current political situation in Myanmar as it is a setback for the country’s democratic process.

“It is feared that the political upheaval in Myanmar can affect peace and stability in this region.

“In this regard, I fully agree with the suggestion that both foreign ministers be given the mandate to work out an understanding for a special Asean meeting to be held to discuss this matter more thoroughly,” the Prime Minister said.

The one-on-one meeting also touched on environmental cooperation, including the issues of climate change and transboundary haze affecting the two countries.


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