Palm Oil Trade a Priority in FTA Talks with EU

BARRIERS to palm oil trade will be a priority item on the negotiating

table in Malaysia’s free trade agreement (FTA) talks with the European

Union (EU), said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri

Bernard Dompok.

Malaysia and the EU is due to hold its second

round of FTA talks next month.

“We want to ensure the palm oil

industry does not face obstacles,” he said.

“We will assist

palm oil exporters to remove trade barriers and explore new markets

while making the palm oil industry competitive,” he added.

One of the obstacles, he said, was the negative campaign

by Western environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which

claimed that the expansion of palm oil plantations had affected forest

biodiversity.

Rivalry from competing vegetable oils grown in

Europe has seen some under-handed tactics adopted by developed nations

to curb the growth of the palm oil trade.

Well-funded activist

groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth from Europe and their

affiliates in Malaysia and Indonesia blame oil palm planters for

destroying forests, decimating the orang utan population and viciously

campaigning against palm oil imports into the EU, especially for

biofuels.

“These NGOs continue to mislead consumers in Europe.

I will inform the International Trade and Industry minister on such

unfair trade practices,” said Dompok.

Malaysia has to seriously

address such trade barriers to palm oil trade because almost a million

jobs are at stake. The sprawling palm oil industry also supports some

two million livelihoods in the economy.

The NGOs anti-palm oil

campaign is aligned with the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive that seeks

to discriminate against palm biodiesel.

Dr Gernot Pehnelt,

founder and director of GlobEcon, an independent research and consulting

institute in Germany had last month argued the directive’s assumptions

of imported biofuels’ ecological impact reflected political and not

scientific or economic reality.

The EU ambassador and head of

delegation to Malaysia Vincent Piket, however, denies the EU is

discriminating against palm oil.

He reportedly said the

sustainability criteria used by the EU Renewable Energy Directive were

science-based, verifiable and in accordance with the World Trade

Organisation principles.

Source : Business Times

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