Malaysia threatens EU with sanctions over palm oil

Malaysia threatens EU with sanctions over palm oil

Malaysia says it will plan retaliation against exports from the European Union if Brussels phases out palm oil biodiesel.

“Malaysia will combat the EU’s aggressive protectionist measure,” Malaysian Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok told the nation’s semi-independent media.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s recently warned France’s President Emmanuel Macron that he would consider restrictions on French imports if France did not withdraw plans to ban palm biodiesel.

Kok and Mahathir made no reference to the ruinous environmental impact of palm oil production, which is the driving force behind European legislation, rather than political motivation.

According to the WWF, every hour an area of rainforest the size of 300 football fields is cleared for palm oil to be grown on.

Indonesia is now the world’s third-highest greenhouse gas emitter because cleared vegetation is often burned.

A third of all Indonesian mammal species are now estimated to be critically endangered as a result of deforestation, largely for palm oil.

The Sumatran rhino, sun bear, pygmy elephant, proboscis monkey, clouded leopard, Sumatran tigers and orangutan are all threatened. Around 1,000 of the gentle “man of the forest” are thought to have died every year as a result of palm-oil production in the last 20 years, with some of the giant apes found buried alive.

In December French MPs voted to remove palm oil from the country’s biofuel scheme from January 2020.
Rather than addressing the damage caused by palm oil production and working with Europe, Mahathir reverted to his traditional nationalist approach.

The 93-year-old in January said if France banned palm oil, Malaysia would suspend free-trade talks with the EU and impose reciprocal sanctions on French goods.

Meanwhile, the EU Delegated Bill is due to be tabled before the European Parliament next month, supplementing the EU Renewable Energy Directive II to ban palm oil biofuel by 2030.

Any delay would probably doom the legislation with the May European elections looming.

The versatile oil is an important cash crop for Indonesia and Malaysia, which together account for more than 80 per cent of the global production. Palm oil is used in soap, cake, transport fuel and elsewhere.

Kok said the EU’s Delegated Act was discriminatory against the nations which produced palm oil and designed to hurt millions of independent farmers.

“The entire Delegated Act process has been based on the politics of protectionism. I oppose entirely the European Commission classifying palm oil as ‘high risk’.

“Palm oil producing countries, including Malaysia, have consistently outlined the facts that demonstrate that the EU Delegated Act is inaccurate and discriminatory,” she added.

But Kok said palm oil produced eight times more oil than the US soybean oil per hectare which the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, labelled as “low risk”.

Orangutans in Malaysia and Indonesia have been burned out of their forest habitats by palm oil production. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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