Malaysian govt slams EU’s ‘unjustified’ palm oil ban

by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / pic by BLOOMBERG

THE Malaysian government has slammed the European Union (EU) Parliament’s Industry, Research & Energy Committee (ITRE) vote to ban palm oil biofuels in the region, describing it as unjustified and without basis.

Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong warned that any attempt to discriminate against, or exclude, palm oil biofuels will negatively impact European trade and cooperation in Malaysia and the wider South-East Asian region.

“The Malaysian government would like to reiterate its firm position to condemn the discrimination, that is described as unjustified and without basis,” Mah said in a statement last week.

“EU governments, exporters and others must reflect on the harm caused by such a discriminatory approach to Malaysian palm oil exports, ” Mah said this in response to the ITRE endorsement of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety vote on halting imports of the commodity last October.

He said the Malaysian government will be taking serious measures if the proposal is formalised, as the decision is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

“The Malaysian government views this as an unacceptable protectionist trade barrier and a breach of the EU’s World Trade Organisation commitments.

“Also, the decision clearly shows the intentional effort by the EU to restrict the importation of Malaysia’s commodity.

“Should this provision be confirmed in the final directive, we will respond strongly,” he said.

In 2012, Malaysia established a certification scheme — the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil standard — to ensure the sustainable production of palm oil and the commitment is continued with the government’s decision to make it mandatory for all Malaysian producers.

“Malaysia’s forest protection is vastly superior to almost every EU member state as we have become one of the most advanced forest protection regimes in the world, and recognised by the United Nations and the World Bank,” he said.

He added that the prohibition is unnecessary as Malaysia’s palm oil producers are capable to meet the standards set by the European market.

“Our palm oil producers are able to meet the strictest standards of sustainability required by European customers, as they have been certified as sustainable by leading European sustainability schemes, including Germany’s International Sustainability and Carbon Certification,” he said.

Mah insisted the EU review its banning proposal as the decision will impact the Malaysian economy.

“We will be compelled to take every necessary action to protect the rights of 650,000 small farmers and secure the future of the palm oil sector that has lifted millions of Malaysians out of poverty.”

Under the leadership of MPIC secretary general Datuk K Yogeesvaran, Mah urged the interim ministerial task force to intensify its ground work of monitoring the developments in the EU Parliament and its members’ sentiments.