MANILA: Malaysia views European Union’s (EU) move to link palm oil industry with deforestation very seriously and is ready for counter action to protect the welfare of the 600,000 smallholders in the country.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said during the Asean – European 40th Commemorative Summit yesterday, he emphasised that the move to restrict import of palm oil into the EU after 2020 would adversely affect the industry and smallholders in Malaysia.
“Their income, welfare and livelihood will be jeopardised by the move,” he told the Malaysian media here last night.
Najib said he also raised the matter with Indonesian President Joko Widodo before the commencement of the Summit and the latter agreed to highlight their mutual concern at the meeting.
“Joko agreed that the move would also adversely affect 17.5 million smallhorders in Indonesia,” he said, adding that in total, millions of people in Asean would suffer if the issue was not immediately addressed.
Najib said during the meeting, he told EU President Donald Tusk that it was a serious matter and the latter responded that he would personally look into it.
“On our standpoint, we have successfully managed to raise it and so much so that Tusk has realised that it is a big issue for Malaysia and Indonesia.”
Asked if Malaysia and Indonesia would take counter action if the EU remained adamant, Najib said he would raise the matter with Jokowi at the annual bilateral consultation between the two countries to be held in Kuching on Nov 22.
"If we act alone, the impact will not be effective. But, if we join forces, it will have a positive effect for both countries,” Najib said, adding that Malaysia and Indonesia contribute more than 80 per cent of global palm oil output.
It was reported that the EU Parliament had adopted a resolution in April that only environmentally sustainable palm oil could be imported into the EU after 2020.
It also called for a single certified sustainable palm oil scheme for Europe-bound palm oil exports to make sure that the oil was produced using environmentally sustainable methods and prevented deforestation.
Meanwhile, on the status of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Najib said after missing two deadlines, the agreement was scheduled to be signed during the Asean Summit and Related Summits in Singapore in November next year.
He said Asean leaders, who met for the first time during the RCEP Summit yesterday, agreed for intensive negotiations to reach a consensus with a new target of November 2018, adding that so far, 20 rounds of negotiations and nine meetings at the ministerial levels were held.
“Leaders agreed that there are issues which were unresolved and have affected the negotiations,” Najib said.
The agreement between the 10 Asean member countries and their six dialogue partners will create the world's largest trading group, covering almost a third of the global economy.
The six dialogue partners are Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
RCEP was launched at the 2012 Asean Summit and Related Summits in Cambodia and was affected by US President Donald Trump’s decision for the US to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
RCEP, with a total a population of more than three billion, accounts for a total gross domestic product (GDP) of US$49.5 trillion.