M’sia, Indonesia halt Asean-EU dialogue elevation


Malaysia and Indonesia have pushed to defer the elevation of the Asean-European Union (EU) dialogue into a strategic partnership, citing members of the bloc’s action against palm oil and its economic repercussion to Asean member nations.

The Foreign Ministry in a statement said Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah had led the Malaysian delegation to the 22nd Asean-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM) on Jan 21, 2019, in Brussels, Belgium.

The meeting was co-chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, which is presently the country’s coordinator for Asean-EU dialogue relations.

“The Foreign Minister reiterated Malaysia’s position visà- vis action undertaken by the EU which would adversely affect the interests of palm oil-producing states in Asean.

“In this connection, Malaysia expressed the view that the proposed elevation of Asean-EU dialogue relations to a strategic partnership should be deferred to a later stage. Indonesia put forward the same recommendation,” said the ministry in the statement.

Despite facing an impasse, a joint statement of the 22nd AEMM was adopted.

“Although the Asean and EU foreign ministers agreed in principle to upgrade Asean-EU dialogue relations to a strategic partnership, they decided that details and timing would be worked out in due course, as a result of the concerns raised by Malaysia and Indonesia,” said the ministry.

A few of EU countries have proposed a ban on palm oil and the use of the commodity as biofuel. Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s two largest producers of the commodity, have objected to the ban, claiming palm oil has been unfairly treated.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently handed a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron over the French National Assembly’s decision to declassify palm oil as biodiesel feedstock in the country.

The letter was handed over to the French Ambassador in Kuala Lumpur on Jan 14. In December last year, the French National Assembly adopted an amendment to its 2019 budget to exclude the use of palm oil as biodiesel feedstock and to end tax incentives for palm oil as of 2020.

The move is seen “as a de facto ban” and would make palm oil highly uneconomical, giving advantage to Europe’s home-grown rapeseed and sunflower oils.