Kok to visit EU over palm oil ban

By AFIQ AZIZ / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok will be visiting key European countries in May as a last resort to sway the European Commission (EC) from tabling a resolution to discriminate palm oil from biodiesel.

The proposed law — which, if passed, will classify palm oil as a “high risk” commodity — is slated to be tabled by the EC in mid-May.

Speaking to reporters in Putrajaya yesterday, Kok said the decision to personally visit Europe came after a futile attempt to convince the European Union (EU) by a Malaysian delegation led by the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Dr Tan Yew Chong earlier this month.

Tan had previously presented Malaysia’s legal and technical arguments against the EU’s plan to limit the use of the commodity in biofuel.

“Our team has come back after presenting their case in Brussels (Belgium) against the proposed act.

“However, the EU had (only) made some (minor) amendment and will still proceed with the law,” Kok said.

The minor amendment, approved on March 13, has reduced the definition of a smallholder, from a smallholding of 5ha in the original definition to 2ha of land
area.

Kok said the amendment has not alleviated tension among palm oil planters, but added pressure on palm oil-producing nations.

The EU regulation will only provide thin opportunity for smallholders to continue planting as most of them would be categorised as “high risk” for greenhouse gas emissions and high indirect land use change rate.

“So, most likely in (early) May, I will visit EU countries and meet the government leaders again, explain to them our situation — like the way we plant trees, while taking care of our environment — as well as our intention to push for sustainable palm oil,” Kok added.

The EU’s plan to ban palm oil biofuel moves closer to realisation after the EC recently acknowledged in a delegated act that palm oil cultivation results in excessive deforestation and its use in transport fuel should be phased out.

The proposed EU delegated act — slated to be tabled before the European Parliament in April — supplements the EU Renewable Energy Directive II to restrict and ban palm oil biofuel by 2030.

Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry had described the recommendation as a “calculated political act” aimed at removing its palm oil exports from the EU market.

Malaysia had threatened to take the ban on palm oil to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) if the proposed ban goes ahead.

Indonesia, which is the world’s largest palm oil producer, has voiced its intention to bring the dispute over the classification to the WTO.