ICYMI: Malaysian Foreign Minister Sends Strong Message to EU About Proposed Ban on Palm Oil

Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah confirms potential WTO challenge

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, the country’s top diplomat, chastised Europe’s discriminatory tactics to ban palm oil biofuels from the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), as part of a bigger EU wide campaign to exclude palm oil from the EU market, in an interview with Bloomberg this week.

Minister Saifuddin Abdullah warns that the Malaysian Government is preparing for a long battle against the EU and will not hesitate to resort to trade retaliatory measures against EU products. A first warning was sent recently, when Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and his ASEAN colleagues did not support upgrading the EU-ASEAN Partnership to a “Strategic Partnership” last month during the ASEAN-EU Summit in Brussels.

Bloomberg writes:

“There is a real lobby against palm oil and it’s even likely that palm may eventually be excluded from any product or biodiesel sold in Europe, foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah said in an interview on Tuesday.

“Several European countries are sympathetic toward Malaysia’s plight and the government is hopeful that it can win the battle for palm oil if the EU dispute is brought to the World Trade Organization, he said.

“For now, palm oil remains a key reason behind an impasse on trade agreements between the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Saifuddin said. At a recent meeting in Brussels, ASEAN postponed a pact that would raise EU’s status to become a strategic dialogue partner, he said”

Malaysian Small Farmers Demand an End to EU Discrimination

New digital ad campaign warns EU over RED Delegated Act

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Today, in advance of the European Commission’s presentation of the Delegated Act to the European Parliament, Malaysia’s Small Palm Oil Farmers have launched a continent wide digital ad campaign condemning Europe’s discriminatory effort to ban Palm Oil.

Dato’ Haji Aliasak Bin Haji Ambia, President of the National Association of Small Holders (NASH) made the following statement:

“Europe’s actions are eco-colonialist, bad for small farmers, bad for Malaysia, bad for our ASEAN neighbours and bad for Europe’s economic and geopolitical interests in the ASEAN region.”

Malaysia’s Small Farmers demand that EU President Jean-Claude Juncker and Vice-President Frans Timmermans reject any plans to exclude Palm Oil biofuels from the EU market. Instead, the Commission should reaffirm Europe’s commitment to ASEAN region, Malaysia, and small Palm Oil farmers. Europe’s aggressive anti-Palm Oil behaviour lends itself to significant problems in the EU-ASEAN trade relationship.

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Faces of Palm Oil is a joint project of the National Association of Small Holders (NASH), the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), the Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association (DOPPA), the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA) and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) that seeks to advocate on behalf of Malaysian small farmers. To learn more, visit http://facesofpalmoil.org/

Important Statement from Malaysian Government: EU Must Drop Deforestation Criteria Proposal

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – 5th February 2019. Today, Malaysian Minister of Primary Industries, Ms. Teresa Kok, urged the European Union to drop the Delegated Act, or Deforestation Criteria.

  1. The EU Commission is considering defining Palm Oil as “High Risk” in a Delegated Act due to be released this month. To be clear: the Malaysian Government considers that labelling Palm Oil as “High Risk” is a Ban on Palm Oil, and a “Phase Out” of Palm Oil is also a Ban.
  2. Minister Kok stated, “It is highly advisable for the European Union to abandon the Delegated Act, or Deforestation Criteria. Failing to do so will put at risk its relations with ASEAN. The measure is targeted discrimination against Malaysia and our neighbours, and violates international trading rules. The Malaysian Government has signaled its willingness to lay down retaliatory measures targeting European products and key industrial exports, including luxury brands and manufactured goods.”
  3. Europe and ASEAN have a friendly and mutually beneficial relationship. The Deforestation Criteria is a direct attack on this relationship, and demonstrates contempt for international trading rules. It is for these reasons that Malaysia – and others – did not support upgrading the EU-ASEAN relationship to a “Strategic Partnership” during the recent EU-ASEAN Ministerial in Brussels, and why Malaysia did not sign the Partnership Cooperation Agreement – the process to kick-start FTA talks – with the European Union.
  4. Moreover, in recent weeks, Europe has agreed to declare U.S. soya sustainable in a deal with U.S. President Trump. Malaysia expects the European Union to table the same deal for Malaysian Palm Oil, and will accept nothing less.
  5. Minister Kok challenged European leaders and the European Commission to do the right thing, “Malaysia will not support ASEAN upgrading its relationship with Europe until Europe provides Palm Oil producing countries, and Malaysia, with the same deal as they have given to the American soya industry, and publicly drops the Deforestation Criteria.”
  6. Minister Kok ended by stating, “Malaysia has been clear, led by Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, that we will oppose any discrimination against palm oil, and that any attacks that harm our palm oil sector will be met with a response. Malaysia reserves the right to respond to this aggression in both domestic and international forums, including like-minded legislation targeting European exports, as well as initiate formal WTO Dispute proceedings against the EU.”

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Europe on the Precipice: Which Path Will the EU Choose over Palm Oil?

In Malaysia, and across the developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, palm oil is a source of income, food, stability and hope.

In Brussels, it is a source of controversy and strife.

First, the EU Parliament proposed a ban on all Palm Oil biofuels – which was clearly anti-WTO, protectionist, and unworkable. It was rejected.

Next, the MEPs insisted that the Commission present a Delegated Act with a subtler attempt to push Palm Oil out of the biofuel market (by labeling Palm Oil as “high risk”). This approach is still against WTO, and would destabilise Europe’s trade strategy in ASEAN.

The discussions remain ongoing in Brussels. DG Energy cannot agree a text; Commissioner Timmermans, and even President Juncker, are now involved. Ahead of the College of Commissioners meeting tomorrow, there is really only one question.

Which path does Europe want to choose for itself?

The issue of Palm Oil and the RED represents a wider question for the EU’s leaders.

Is the EU still the global leader, supporting international rules and the WTO? Are Europeans still open-minded, supportive of developing nations, and against discrimination?

Or is there now a darker change of direction in Brussels, towards inward-looking protectionism and populism? A new direction that ignores ASEAN allies, disregards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and does not care about harming developing countries and small farmers.

That is the question before the Commissioners.

If the Commission moves to label Palm Oil as “High Risk” that is a Ban. If the Commission moves to “Phase Out” Palm Oil this is also a Ban. It signals that the EU prioritises discrimination and protectionism over its strategic geopolitical and trade interests.

It will signal that Europe no longer values the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Approving that Ban will signal Europe is prepared to ignore the WTO’s rules-based trading system and disregard the needs of ASEAN allies.

ASEAN has made clear the consequences if the EU does choose this darker direction. At the recent EU-ASEAN Ministerial, ASEAN refused to upgrade the EU’s status to ‘strategic partner’. Why? Because of the EU’s political and financial support of hostile and protectionist policies against Palm Oil.

Ministers from Malaysia and Indonesia have explicitly stated that any EU Ban (including a ‘high risk’ label) would lead to a WTO case, and trade retaliation against EU products.

This is an election year in Brussels.

Having spent the past three years criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump as an isolationist and protectionist, will the EU really now introduce a protectionist attack against its ASEAN allies?

Having spent the past three years trying to save the WTO – will the EU really want to pass a measure that is so dismissive of WTO rules?

Time will tell: but this is now the decision that Commissioners must come to.

ASEAN’s position is clear. There will be consequences for the EU’s trade position in Asia. As the Eurozone tips back towards recession, that is serious enough.

More importantly, this would be a hammer blow to the EU’s moral authority around the world. Never again would developing countries take seriously any calls from Brussels for ‘openness’ or ‘respect for international rules and norms’.

Which path does Europe want to choose for itself?

ICYMI: Malaysian Prime Minister Sends Warning to Europe over Palm Oil

Pressure is building on Brussels and Paris to abandon anti-Palm Oil legislation or risk a crisis in EU-ASEAN relations

Reuters reports the Malaysian Government has not ruled out retaliatory trade sanctions against French exports should France implement the ban on Palm Oil biofuels.

In the letter addressed to French President Emmanuel Macron, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warns the French President that Malaysia will consider imposing trade restrictions on French exports to Malaysia, as well as suspend EU-Malaysia free trade negotiations, should the French actions against Palm Oil come into force.

The Prime Minister’s letter comes as Brussels’ ASEAN strategy is in deep crisis following last week’s EU-ASEAN Ministerial, which resulted in a failure to upgrade the EU-ASEAN relationship to a “Strategic Partnership” and a failure to sign the EU-Malaysia Partnership Cooperation Agreement – the process to kick-start FTA talks.

The growing tensions are escalating as Brussels considers imposing a Delegated Act, or Deforestation Criteria, against Palm Oil after years of European governments funding a black campaign against Palm Oil. Palm Oil producing countries consider the Deforestation Criteria to be a colonial action that is in violation of WTO law, scientifically flawed and fatally undermines Europe’s claim that it seeks a constructive trading partnership with ASEAN.

Reuters writes:

“Malaysia will consider laws to restrict imports of French products if Paris does not withdraw plans to curb the use of palm oil in biofuels, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron.

“Failing in that mutual respect will force Malaysia to look at actions, including, but not limited to, suspension of EU-Malaysia free trade talks and the imposition of like-minded legislation against French exports,” Mahathir said in the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

“France’s move could lead to “regrettable economic and trade consequences” for Malaysian exporters of palm oil and French exporters, Mahathir said.

Read the full Reuters’ story here.

Faces of Palm Oil is a joint project of the National Association of Small Holders (NASH), the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), the Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association (DOPPA), the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA) and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) that seeks to advocate on behalf of Malaysian small farmers. To learn more, visit http://facesofpalmoil.org

ICYMI: Malaysia Foreign Affairs Minister Blasts EU for ‘Discriminatory, Double Standard’ Attacks on Palm Oil

Malaysian Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah blasted Europe’s anti-Palm Oil campaign yesterday, declaring the moves by Brussels and Paris to be ‘discriminatory’ and ‘reek[ing] of double standard’.

Minister Saifuddin has called on European leaders to reject biased policies such as the Deforestation Criteria and the French ban on Palm Oil biofuel, or prepare for trade retaliation from Malaysia.

Key excerpts from Minister Saifuddin –

  • “It is ironic that other oil crops are not subject to the same stringent requirements demanded for palm oil. This is discriminatory and reeks of double standards.
  • “This move will indirectly favour Europe’s long-term products specifically rapeseed and sunflower oils. No other oilseed or oil-bearing crop was negatively targeted as the oil primary has.
  •  “The move may infringe WTO [World Trade Organisation] rules, and goes against the spirit of globalisation and free trade, of which the EU countries have been so keen to promote and protect.

The Malaysian Government under Prime Minister Mahathir has made clear its intent to respond to Europe’s black Palm Oil campaign. As a leader in forest conservation, Malaysia remains committed to maintaining over 55 per cent of land area as forest. Malaysia is dedicated to achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through its renewed commitment for sustainability. By 2020, all Malaysian Palm Oil will be certified under mandatory Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) guidelines.

Read more on the Minister’s statement, here.

WHO Study Full of Errors, Omissions, Assumptions and Bias

The World Health Organisation’s recent Bulletin contained an article focused on the palm oil sector. The article was full of errors, omissions, assumptions, and other evidence of bias. The fact that those biases exist is a major problem – but the wider problem is the following:

The WHO article’s stated concern was that the palm oil industry focuses on “lobbying”, to the detriment of scientific evidence. And yet … here is an article from the WHO focused exclusively on regurgitating the talking points of anti-palm oil lobbyists, while ignoring voluminous scientific evidence that highlights the benefits of palm oil.

The lack of self-awareness is painful.

On the substance of the WHO’s concerns, let’s start by looking at the issue of poverty.

The WHO authors actually complain that the palm oil sector uses ‘poverty alleviation arguments’. In this, the WHO is correct. Palm oil cultivation has lifted millions out of poverty, provided an income for small farmers and rural communities, and helped Africans, Asians and others build better, healthier lives for themselves and their children.

Is the WHO saying this is a bad thing? Perhaps the organization needs reminding that poverty is one of the most significant drivers of poor health. As the World Bank states “Poverty is a major cause of ill health and a barrier to accessing health care”. Palm oil has a unique double-benefit because both producers and many consumers are based in the developing world: the producers (small farmers in Malaysia or Indonesia) receive income, which helps improve their health; and the consumers (often poorer people in India or Africa) receive key nutrients including Vitamin E tocotrienols and tocopherols, which also improves their health.

Lifting millions of people out of poverty – as the palm oil sector has achieved – does more for improving global health than any WHO bureaucracy ever could.

Perhaps the WHO criticism is that palm oil countries talk too much about poverty alleviation. Again, the Malaysian palm oil sector is guilty as charged: for years Malaysia has provided data points, studies, articles and so on, to highlight how the country built successful rural communities and economies using oil palm. The ‘Malaysian model’ of oil palm cultivation is being studied and replicated in many poor countries globally, as a means to replicate Malaysia’s success in reducing poverty from 50% down to less than 5% in just a few decades.

Surely, this too should be celebrated by WHO? Sharing information and knowledge on proven poverty alleviation efforts will help to improve health in poor countries. Instead, though, the WHO falls back on the tired anti-palm oil attacks.

The WHO next criticizes palm oil in the context of trans fats. Just to be clear, trans fats have been universally condemned as deleterious for human health. Palm oil naturally has zero trans fats, but can fulfil the same function in food preparation. Again, the simplest answer here is the correct one: this is a clear win for human health. The WHO article, however, once again ignores this positive (which has been accepted by … the WHO’s Recommendations) – focusing instead on an assertion that ‘the palm oil industry may benefit from increased sales’. Are the WHO authors claiming they would prefer lower health outcomes, or a reintroduction of trans fats…?

Not content with ignoring the prevailing, positive evidence on health and poverty, the WHO article moves on to repeating the anti-palm oil lobbyists’ talking points on environment. It is almost a copy-past of the extremist NGO attacks on palm oil that have been debunked repeatedly.

Allegations made include of large-scale burning and haze – despite the reality, which is that Malaysia has a strict no-burn law. This established fact of law is ignored by WHO. Then the article includes allegations of large-scale deforestation – despite the reality, which is that the United Nations forest assessment shows that Malaysia’s forest area is increasing, and remains far higher that most Western nations. Again, this established fact is ignored by WHO, in favour of anti-palm oil talking points. The claim of 100,000 deaths from haze one year have been thoroughly discredited, including by Health Ministries in the countries themselves. If the WHO authors had been prepared to do a little research, this all could have been discovered quite easily.

Once more, the positive and verified facts about oil palm cultivation are simply ignored. A crop that uses less land (meaning more can be kept for conservation); fewer pesticides (which the WHO has admitted is a good thing); and less fertilizer – surely, this is to be mentioned in any article about palm oil and health? No. The WHO article ignores these facts, sticking to its anti-palm oil taking points.

In many ways, the article at least is honest about its bias. Throughout the article, anti-palm oil NGOs are quoted approvingly, and at length, despite the fact that they have no scientific standing. Whereas any published research with even a small link to the palm oil sector is condemned. This is a classic case of a judgment based not on evidence, but on pre-existing prejudice (“NGOs good; palm oil bad”).

To summarise, the WHO does not dispute the proven evidence that palm oil reduces poverty, replaces trans fats, and helps conserve land by being more efficient. Any balanced evaluation would conclude this is a valuable crop. Instead, the WHO article compares palm oil to alcohol and tobacco. The tocotrientols in red palm oil provide essential vitamins to nutrient-deprived communities across the developing world … but the WHO lazily compares this to a cigarette? It would be laughable if it were not so irresponsible.

However, there is one saving grace. The WHO authors admit that “We need to better understand … palm oil products.” Yes, from this article, it is clear that you do.

ICYMI: Malaysian Small Farmers Say EU Deforestation Roadmap will Disenfranchise Palm Oil Farmers; Lacks Moral Authority to Impose Trade Barriers

National Association of Smallholders (NASH) Malaysia submitted yesterday open feedback to the EU Commission’s Deforestation and forest degradation – stepping up EU action initiative.

NASH reminded the EU that 650,000 Malaysian small farmers’ livelihoods are placed in jeopardy due to EU’s anti-Palm Oil approach.

NASH has provided the following feedback to the proposal, addressing the importance of effective partnerships with Palm Oil Producing Countries, sustainability, consideration of 650,000 Malaysian smallholders, and international cooperation to ensure sustainable supply chains:

“It is patronising, and false, to suggest that only the EU can provide [sustainable supply chains]. The Malaysian Government has introduced the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO), a world-leading sustainability certification based on ISO standards. Palm oil has been a great poverty alleviation tool for Malaysia. The EU Roadmap’s proposed action, targeting palm oil, would have the opposite effect and hurt small farmers. More than 650,000 Malaysian small farmers and their families depend on palm oil. Any discriminatory EU action plan would harm the incomes and livelihoods of these families. With palm oil, more oil is produced per hectare, substantially less fertiliser is used, lowest energy input needed and fewer pesticides are needed, per tonne of oil produced.”

NASH’s submission to the EU Deforestation Roadmap may be viewed here or in full below.

This is not the end of the process. The European Union has now formally opened its public consultation period, where a longer and more detailed assessment may be provided in response to the EU’s Roadmap.

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NASH Feedback: EU Roadmap on “Deforestation and forest degradation – stepping up EU action”

The published EU Roadmap on tackling deforestation and forest degradation is the latest in a long series of EU initiatives aimed to regulate and control palm oil imports from the developing world. The EU’s environmental and sustainability agenda is the latest tool for controlling the developing world. The EU must stop, and recognize that it lacks the moral authority to impose such control barriers.

Every initiative or proposal contained within this Roadmap amounts to the same objective: the EU plans to disenfranchise 650,000 Malaysian small farmers – and millions of other small farmers round the world – by imposing discriminatory restrictions on palm oil exports. Enough is enough.

This is the context in which the EU Roadmap was prepared. Small Malaysian farmers of palm oil are sustainable: European countries – who already deforested their own continent to incredible levels – do not have the moral authority to lecture small farmers in Asia or Africa. Similarly, the EU does not have the moral authority to impose restrictions.

NASH provides the following feedback to the Roadmap proposals:

1.Building effective partnerships with producing countries to support the uptake of sustainable practices: The EU is not needed. Malaysia is a recognized world-leader in palm oil sustainability, and forest conservation more widely. The Malaysian Government maintains 54.9% of its land as forest area, which is almost double the EU’s average forest area. Furthermore, palm oil is the world’s most land-efficient oilseed crop and has the lowest environmental footprint of any oil-bearing crop.

 

2.Promoting sustainable supply chains: It is patronising, and false, to suggest that only the EU can provide this. The Malaysian Government has introduced the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO), a world-leading sustainability certification based on ISO standards. The EU should formally recognize MSPO’s role in promoting sustainability.

3.Helping smallholders: Palm oil has been a great poverty alleviation tool for Malaysia. The EU Roadmap’s proposed action, targeting palm oil, would have the opposite effect and hurt small farmers. More than 650,000 Malaysian small farmers and their families depend on palm oil. Any discriminatory EU action plan would harm the incomes and livelihoods of these families.

4.Strengthen international cooperation with other major consumer countries to ensure sustainable supply chains: All Malaysian palm oil exported to the EU meets strict criteria for sustainability as set out by existing EU rules. MSPO rules will also be mandatory in Malaysia, to guarantee sustainability.

Any EU actions that target palm oil will be met with trade response from producing countries. The EU should pull back from its provocative and protectionist stance over palm oil that could impact billions in exports.

The Malaysian Government has already warned that it will “take retaliatory actions on bilateral trade and other ongoing collaborations”.

5.Building EU policies that can help prevent tropical deforestation and forest degradation: With palm oil, more oil is produced per hectare, substantially less fertiliser is used, lowest energy input needed and fewer pesticides are needed, per tonne of oil produced. If anything, EU policies should target the use of other oilseeds that are more damaging to the environment, such as rapeseed and sunflower.

Many studies, including the EU’s very own research have concluded that palm oil is a very small contributor to global deforestation, compared to beef and livestock, and other commodities such as maize.

  • Where is the EU’s Delegated Act targeting beef, or soybean?
  • Why has the European Parliament not called for a total ban on maize, or beef?
  • Why is the European Commission promising to import MORE soybeans, despite the proven environmental impact?

The anti-palm oil focus of the EU’s Roadmap is unjustified, unscientific, and uneven.

ICYMI: Malaysian Government Indicates Norway’s Anti-Palm Oil Campaign ‘Certainly Not Something We Will Take Lightly’

Malaysia’s Minister of Primary Industries Ms Teresa Kok has condemned Norway’s ongoing campaign against Palm Oil and against the Norwegian Parliament’s erroneous decision to limit and phase out Palm Oil biofuels.

The Malaysian Government warned that the Norwegian Parliament’s decision to ban Palm Oil biofuels goes against fair and free trade, and will adversely affect Malaysia-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) trade negotiations, which includes Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.

Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking has said while EFTA negotiations are ongoing, Malaysia wishes to “understand Norway’s act of condemning Malaysia’s palm oil” and would welcome the opportunity to “meet them [Norwegian leaders] and explain the real situation how we sustainably operate the palm oil industry”.

This measure places a discriminatory and illegitimate label on Malaysian Palm Oil as ‘unsustainable’, despite Malaysia’s leading commitment to Good Agricultural Practices, sustainable development, and its forest conservation efforts to maintain over 50 per cent forest cover.

Minister Teresa Kok said:

“The stand taken by Norway against palm oil will adversely affect bilateral trade relations between Malaysia and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that includes Norway, and would be a major obstacle towards a successful conclusion of the Malaysia EFTA partnership talks.

 “This sort of action smacks of injustice and discrimination against products from developing countries like Malaysia. As a responsible producer of palm oil, we have already set in motion various initiatives to ensure sustainable practices are the norm rather than the exception, throughout the palm oil value chain.

 The Malaysia EFTA partnership agreement must provide fair market access to all of the countries involved, including fair treatment of sustainable palm oil which is produced in Malaysia. Without this fair market access, it will not be in the interest of Malaysia to pursue what will be a bad deal for the country and its people, particularly our 650,000 oil palm smallholders whose livelihood is at stake.”

Read the Minister’s full statement, here.

Read more on Minister Datuk Darell Leiking’s comments, here.