ICYMI: Minister’s Message to Europe: We Will Retaliate Against Palm Oil Ban

Meeting with EU Ministers & leaders, Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong reaffirms Malaysia’s defence of Palm Oil small farmers

Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong was in Europe this past week to meet with European Ministers and EU leaders, to express Malaysia’s protest against the European Parliament’s plan to ban Palm Oil biofuels from 2021.

The Minister outlined the Malaysian Government’s position, in advance of the forthcoming Trilogue negotiations to finalise the RED, which are set to begin on 27 February 2018. Several European media outlets reported the Minister’s comments:

The Minister stated to the EU media Euractiv:

“Small farmers will be negatively affected. Malaysia has 650,000 small farmers. More than 40% of the land the Palm Oil is cultivated on is run by small farmers”

“Malaysia and the EU are in discussion for a free trade agreement and Palm Oil will definitely be on the top of the agenda. Trade is a two-way process. If Europe discriminates our biggest export item we will definitely take action if needed”

“We will refer the case to the WTO if Europe forces us to do so”

Read the full interview in Euractiv here: Minister: Malaysia Will Retaliate Against EU Goods in Case of Palm Oil Ban

The UK’s Telegraph reported the Minister’s comments on UK-Malaysia relations:

“The UK has always been a supporter of fair and free trade, so I’d like the British government’s support, because I have not heard anything from them on this issue. We are confident Britain will assist in this palm oil issue and we will really appreciate if the UK does assist.”

“We hope good sense will prevail. But if there is a situation where palm oil is not allowed in, if we have to stop selling, I think it is fair that we should retaliate.”

The Minister emphasised his position on the German Radio DeutschlandRadio:

“If we have a ban on Malaysian products in one country, then of course we have to respond with similar measures, but I’m optimistic, I’m sure it will be possible to find a practical solution for both sides”

The visit was highly successful. The Minister secured the commitment from several EU Member States that they will oppose the ban on Palm Oil biofuels.

The Spanish Government agreed that the “RED ban on Palm Oil by 2021 was not in line with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) laws and they would not support any discriminatory measures against Palm Oil”.

German Ambassador to Indonesia Michael von Ungern-Stenberg also disagreed with the EU Parliament ban on Palm Oil biofuels.

The Italian Ambassador in Kuala Lumpur also expressed Italy’s support for Malaysian Palm Oil –

“Italy will continue to promote a fair and balanced solution, taking into account the concerns expressed by Malaysia as well as the interests of all stakeholders and firmly rejecting any discriminatory approach specifically targeting a single source of biofuel, the palm oil”

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

Faces of Palm Oil Launches EU Advertising Campaign

Today, the Faces of Palm Oil campaign launches a new European advertising campaign to counter the proposed ban on Palm Oil.  The first ad, appearing in Politico Europe, defends Malaysia’s 650,000 small farmers against the proposed EU ban.

The European Parliament’s proposed ban on Palm Oil threatens 650,000 small farmers and over 3.2 million Malaysians who rely on the Palm Oil industry for their livelihoods.

Ahead of the Trilogue negotiations beginning on 27th February, the Faces of Palm Oil campaign, on behalf of 650,000 small farmers, calls on EU Member State Governments to reject the Palm Oil ban, and instead support sustainable development & poverty alleviation.

The Malaysian Government has spoken about negative trade consequences if the EU moved ahead with a ban on Palm Oil.

Here’s what people are saying:

“Whoever boycotts oil palm products, they will face retaliation”Prime Minister Najib Razak

“During last week cabinet meeting which was chaired by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the government decided that it will review the purchase of products with any countries that banned palm oil” –  Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

“If these hate campaigns and discriminatory policy against palm oil were to go on, we can also retaliate. Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are collectively big purchasers of EU products”.Minister of Plantation Industries & Commodities, Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong,

“Malaysia will intensify collaboration with other Palm Oil producing countries to consider more concerted efforts to voice our strong concern before the various committees under the WTO”Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed

“The United Kingdom agrees with Malaysia’s position that the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive II (RED) is unfair and goes against international trade practice”. – UK High Commissioner to Malaysia Vicki Treadell in New Straits Times

“Sweden and many other European countries, who are member states of the EU, are against any kind of discrimination. That includes any regime that would be discriminating against other products”Sweden’s Ambassador to Malaysia Dag Juhlin-Dannfelt

“France was not in favour of the ban and discrimination against Palm Oil at the national and EU levels”French Defence Minister Florence Parly

 

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 FacesOfPalmOil.org

Europe’s Retreat from Asia

The European Parliament voted to ban the use of Palm Oil in the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED), in the Parliament’s plenary session on 17th January.

The vote means that Palm Oil would be treated differently to other biofuel feedstocks in the EU. This is clearly a trade discrimination. This has WTO consequences – and it is worth outlining why the EU Parliament’s plans are discriminatory.

Fredrik Erixon, Director of the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE) stated: “RED adds a new type of policy, technical regulation, to Europe’s toolkit of trade restrictive measures in biofuels… Behind the rhetoric there hide industrial policy concerns that favour domestic biodiesel production at the expense of biodiesel produced abroad.”

The starting point is this: the reason that biofuels are used in the European Union in such volumes is because they are mandated by law. All biofuel imports and consumption in Europe operate under the RED.

Everyone knows this; it has been a fact of the EU’s biofuel policy from Day One. The reason that Palm Oil gets used as a feedstock for European biodiesel is because use of biofuels is mandated by law, and because Palm Oil qualifies for the same treatment as other biofuels under EU rules, i.e. it is considered as meeting the EU criteria and has been certified as meeting those criteria. Removal of Palm Oil from the RED targets is a death sentence, and constitutes discriminatory treatment.

The ban signals a retreat from Europe’s trade commitments in Asia, and will have consequences at the WTO.

It is absolutely no wonder that Malaysia’s Trade Minister made his opinions so clear when he stated that the government will likely raise the issue at the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS), Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Market Access Committees at the WTO over the next three months.

Here’s an excerpt from his statement to Commissioner Malmstrom: “The EU’s move is also a potential violation of WTO rules as it is a deliberate attempt to block the access of palm oil into their market. Malaysia will intensify collaboration with other palm oil producing countries … to voice our strong concern before the various committees under the WTO”

Why would Malaysia threaten this?

Because Europe is not using a level playing field for all biofuels.

The EU action is likely to contravene three of the WTO agreements. This is a big deal. The key arguments against the RED in its 2009 iteration are that the EU: is discriminating between trading peers; is not using an international standard to determine sustainability; and is being overly trade restrictive to achieve its objectives.

The EU Parliament vote is a setback for EU trade strategy in the ASEAN region. They’re currently trying to work out a free trade agreement with Malaysia, and another one with Indonesia. If they want these to proceed, the EU will need firstly to ensure that the Council and Commission reject the EU Parliament’s discriminatory ban against Palm Oil.

ICYMI: Malaysia to Review Trade with Countries Supporting Palm Oil Ban

Following a Cabinet-level decision chaired by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the Malaysian Government has decided to review trade with the European Union should the Council of the EU approve the ban on Palm Oil biofuels.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi stated: “During last week cabinet meeting which was chaired by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the government decided that it will review the purchase of products with any countries that banned palm oil.”  Read the full comments from the Deputy Prime Minister here.

The announcement of the Cabinet-decision was followed by yet another signal to Europe’s power brokers when Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein made it clear he would raise the proposed ban on Palm Oil biofuels with his French counterpart, Florence Parly, when they meet today in Kuala Lumpur.

These comments come in the wake of a massive street protest in Kuala Lumpur where 300,000 petitions were delivered to the EU by Malaysia’s small farmers.  Recently, the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong, stated at the time Malaysia was readying itself to retaliate, if necessary. “If these hate campaigns and discriminatory policy against palm oil were to go on, we can also retaliate. Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are collectively big purchasers of EU products.”

Statement from Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong, Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Government of Malaysia

Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Mah Siew Keong, released the following statement, after the EU Parliament voted in Strasbourg to ban all Palm Oil biofuels, as part of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED):

  1. The vote by the EU Parliament to exclude Palm Oil biofuels from the EU’s renewable energy future is a wholly unjustified blockade against Malaysian farmers, families and communities.
  2. The EU Parliament’s plan would allow all other oilseed crops to continue operating under the RED, whereas Palm Oil will be excluded. This is a clear case of discrimination against Palm Oil producing countries. The EU is practising a form of Crop Apartheid.
  3. The Malaysian Government views this as an unacceptable and protectionist trade barrier, and a breach of the EU’s WTO commitments. We will not hesitate to take corrective action. The EU Parliament’s decision to discriminate against Palm Oil biofuels will negatively impact European trade and cooperation in Malaysia, and the wider South East Asian region.
  4. We urge European Governments, and the Council of the EU, to reject the EU Parliament’s position on Palm Oil biofuels. The Parliament’s blockade will place at risk the work of the Council of the EU in creating European jobs and expanding bilateral trade and other strategic interests in South-East Asia.
  5. The EU Parliament’s allegations relating to Malaysian Palm Oil’s environmental impact are demonstrably false. Malaysia has one of the most advanced forest protection regimes in the world, as recognised by the United Nations and the World Bank, among others. Malaysia’s forest protection is vastly superior to that of almost every EU Member State.
  6. Malaysian Palm Oil exporters are able to meet the strictest standards of sustainability required by our European customers, and Malaysian Palm Oil biofuel exporters have been certified as sustainable by leading European sustainability schemes, including the German ISCC (International Sustainability and Carbon Certification), as recognised by the EU Commission.
  7. Malaysia has proven world-leading sustainable palm oil practices, as confirmed by the EU Commission’s own recognised sustainability schemes. The EU Parliament’s attempt to denigrate Malaysia is insulting and has no basis in fact.
  8. The Malaysian Government will take any action necessary to protect the rights of 650,000 Malaysian Palm Oil small farmers, and to secure the future of the Palm Oil sector that has lifted millions of Malaysians out of poverty. Protectionist discrimination against Malaysian Palm Oil exports will not be tolerated.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Malaysian Palm Oil is responsible for RM70bn (€14.5bn) in annual export revenue; and around 7.5 per cent of all Malaysian exports.
  2. 39 per cent of all oil palm plantations in Malaysia are cultivated by small farmers. Palm oil programme have lifted millions of Malaysians out of poverty[1].
  3. EU exports to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, total over €40billion annually[2].
  4. Malaysia’s forest cover is over 50 per cent, as reported in the UNFAO Global Forest Resources Assessment[3]

[1] Ragayah, Haji Mat Zin (2013). The New Economic Policy and Poverty Eradication. In Terence Gomez and Johan Saravanamuttu (eds). The New Economic Policy in Malaysia: Affirmative Action, Ethnic Inequalities and Social Justice. Singapore, NUS Press.

[2]Malaysia,” European Commission, 16 March 2017 ; Indonesia,” European Commission, 16 March 2017; Thailand,” European Commission, 16 March 2017.

[3] United Nations FAO: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4808e.pdf

Malaysian Oil Palm Smallholders Protest Europe’s “Crop Apartheid”

Thousands of Smallholders March Outside EU Embassy in Downtown Kuala Lumpur

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 16 January 2018 – In a massive show of opposition to the European Union’s efforts to impose a “Crop Apartheid” on Malaysian Palm Oil, Malaysia’s Oil Palm smallholders took to the streets of downtown Kuala Lumpur today to protest Europe’s proposed Palm Oil ban.

The EU’s planned ban on Palm Oil threatens 650,000 smallholders and over 3.2 million Malaysians who rely on the Palm Oil industry for their livelihoods. Rural communities across Malaysia would be devastated by the proposed restriction and thousands would be driven into poverty. The Malaysian Government has previously warned that if any ban on Palm Oil would be implemented by the EU, then the Malaysian Government would take the necessary actions in order to protect the rights and livelihoods of Malaysian smallholders.

Dato’ Haji Aliasak Bin Haji Ambia, President, National Association of Small Holders (NASH), said:

“Europe is imposing a “Crop Apartheid” on farmers from the developing world. This violates every United Nations treaty Europe has signed up for. We won’t forget neither will we allow this discrimination to continue.”

Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad, Chairman of the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), said:

“The proposed EU ban on Palm Oil biofuels, under the Renewable Energy Directive, is discriminatory and must be removed. Over 112,000 FELDA smallholders in Malaysia will be harmed by this ban.”

Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, Chairman, Sarawak Land Consolidation & Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA), said:

Malaysia strongly condemns any actions by European politicians that will discriminate against our oil palm smallholders. The policies that the EU is proposing to introduce will harm Malaysia’s rural communities and reduce incomes for Malaysian families. These are consequences that we cannot accept.”

Dr Richard Mani Banda, President, Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association (DOPPA), said:

“Europe’s actions undermine the Indigenous communities of the Borneo.  This cuts off income from families to feed their children and send them to school with good supplies like the kids of Berlin and London have.  This is modern day colonialism.”

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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 smallholders. To learn more, visit FacesOfPalmOil.org.

ICYMI: Minister: Asian Nations Are Ready to Retaliate Against EU Palm Oil Ban

Malaysian Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong reaffirmed the Malaysian Government’s stance that it will retaliate if the proposed EU Palm Oil ban comes into law, and outlined that other Asian nations will also join in the action.

The EU’s exports to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand number more than €40 billion annually.

The Minister said:

“If these hate campaigns and discriminatory policy against palm oil were to go on, we can also retaliate. Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are collectively big purchasers of EU products.

“Why is oil palm cultivation demonised when it is proven to be the most sustainable oil crop when compared to rapeseed and sunflower grown in the EU? … Why are our oil palm planters being discriminated? What we want are equal opportunities to trade our palm oil. Is that too much to ask?”

Read the full comments from the Minister here.

Malaysian small farmer leaders also condemned the EU’s proposed ban. Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad, Chairman of the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), declared:

“This EU ban, if it is implemented, would cause significant harm to ordinary Malaysians, reducing the quality of life of our small farmers, and taking money out of the pockets of communities across Malaysia. We cannot allow this to happen.”

Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, Chairman of the Sarawak Land Consolidation & Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA), said:

“We must not take any chances: the livelihoods and incomes of tens of thousands of Sarawak’s small farmers are at stake. I urge all readers to join us in opposing the EU’s proposed ban on palm oil biofuels, which would undermine Sarawak’s agricultural success story”.

Professor Datuk Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim, Fellow at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, UCSI University, also criticised the EU’s ban, writing:

“EU is among those that support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Clearly, the palm oil ban…is not a reflection of such support. The ban contradicts the first and important goal under SDGs, which is to reduce poverty. If this is not hypocrisy, I do not know what is”.

Malaysian Government Encourages Berlin to Support Malaysian Palm Oil; Put a Stop to the Biofuel Ban

While you were away for the New Year’s festivities, the Malaysian Minister for Plantation Industries and Commodities, Mah Siew Keong, authored an opinion editorial for the leading German business and financial newspaper, Handelsblatt.

Minister Mah Siew Keong writes that the European Parliament’s effort to ban Palm Oil biofuel will become a “poverty trap for 650,000 farmers” in Malaysia, and lead to a downward spiral for 3.2 million Malaysians.

Malaysia calls upon the German government to put a stop to the campaign by Brussels and the far-left to ban Palm Oil biofuels that will drive up poverty in South East Asia, and undermine Europe’s goals in the region.  Malaysia also reminds the German government of assurances provided to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib by Chancellor Merkel against the imposition of any form of discrimination against Palm Oil.

The Minister writes:

“In my country, smallholders own 39% of the acreage of oil palm. The “liquid gold” allows them a better life – with functioning infrastructure such as hospitals and schools. As a government, we know that sustainability and social standards are of fundamental importance in Germany. The same applies to Malaysia. With our own certification, the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil Standard (MSPO), we are a world leader.”

“EU certification is not the only threat: the proposed Renewable Energy Directive aims to banish palm oil as a source of energy. If that happens, political machinations in the European Parliament will become a poverty trap for 650,000 farmers. That is totally unacceptable! For many, the cultivation of palm oil is the only basis of life. Farmers’ efforts to help themselves should be rewarded and not punished in Brussels.”

Read the full op-ed from the Minister in Handelsblatt here.