France, UK vie for arms deal: claim

France, UK vie for arms deal: claim
The European Parliament’s proposed ban on palm oil could endanger a possible US$6.3-billion defence deal between Malaysia and the UK, the pro-Brexit British press has alleged. 
The populist UK’s Sun on Sunday newspaper claimed the proposed deals were being jeopardised by the possible prohibition against imports of palm oil voted on by MEPs last month.
The parliamentary proposal said cooking oils should not be considered a source of renewable energy by 2025 and voted to block the contribution of palm oil to biofuels and bio-liquids by 2021.
Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid claimed France, which was hoping to sell its Rafale fighter aircraft to Malaysia, was promising to oppose any EU ban to outflank the British arms industry.
The Sun, which makes an unreliable news source, said that UK environment minister Michael Gove supported the ban on palm oil while the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, had been campaigning for more support for arms-industry employers.
The Malaysian order was reportedly worth around 20,000 jobs.
Much of the environmentally devastating oil sold to the EU is used as a biofuel.
According to the WWF, every hour an area of rainforest the size of 300 football pitches is cleared for palm oil to be grown on.
Around a third of all Indonesian mammal species are thought to be critically endangered as a result of deforestation, largely for palm oil.
Malaysian commodities minister Mah Siew Keong is reportedly scheduled to travel to London this week to demand UK support against the proposed palm-oil ban.
Mah has called for a trade war with the EU over issue.
He said recently: “If these hate campaigns and discriminatory policy against palm oil were to go on, we can also retaliate. Don’t expect us to continue buying European products.”
The MEPs’ vote has to be approved by the European Council, representing member states, and European Commission, which is the bloc’s executive branch.
Sweden poised to oppose the resolution, it has been reported.
Thailand says it will join Malaysia and Indonesia in opposing any trade bans against palm oil.
It is the third largest producer of palm oil, after Indonesia and Malaysia, with an estimated production of almost 2.5 million tonnes last year.
Mah said Bangkok’s response showed the solidarity of palm-oil producers in fighting EU “prejudice and oppression”.
The Malaysian government claims it is defending 3 million Southeast Asian palm-oil smallholders.
But Malaysia’s trade and industry minister Mustapa Mohamed distanced himself from Mah’s stance, saying a total EU trade ban would cause massive economic disruption.
“However, we are taking this matter seriously, as we view this as a discrimination towards palm oil,” he said.
“The government has already issued several statements, but we are not there yet to cut total ties with the EU.
“There was a time when we can be an island, but we cannot afford to become a standalone nation anymore, especially with the current global climate,”  Mohamed added.
He said 200 EU-based companies had a strong presence in Malaysia.


UK military equipment is a major export. Picture credit: Flickr 

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