LONDON, June 1 (Bernama) — Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said Malaysia is keen and will reconsider the trade deal with the European Union (EU) which was halted in 2012, provided it gives fair treatment for the country’s palm oil.
“Both Indonesia and Malaysia did not say that it is halted. For Malaysia, what I said is that I will bring it to the Cabinet to reconsider.”
Fadillah, who is also Minister of Plantations and Commodities clarified a news report stating that the trade deal was discontinued due to European Union’s Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), which was only passed in December 2022.
The free trade agreement (FTA) between Malaysia and the EU was in fact launched 13 years ago in 2010 but was pushed to the back burner within two years after seven rounds of negotiations.
“If they want us to be partners, what we expect is fair treatment. A partnership is about fairness. You can’t expect us to be partners but put in restrictions and conditions.”
“So, if they want us to reconsider the FTA, then treat us as partners,” he told the Malaysian media here as he starts the second leg of his official mission and visit to Europe.
As for Indonesia, what its Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Dr Airlangga Hartarto said is that Jakarta has been negotiating for the last seven years and they don’t mind waiting another seven years to conclude its trade deal, said Fadillah.
Combined, Malaysia and Indonesia are contributing more than 80 per cent to the global palm oil market.
Both Fadillah and Airlangga were jointly interviewed by several local media in Brussels, Belgium at the end of the joint mission with the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) to convey their dissatisfaction with the EUDR.
Indonesia and Malaysia viewed the EUDR which is inherently discriminatory and punitive in nature, which would not only have detrimental effects on international trade but would also hinder the palm oil industry’s efforts on the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In Brussels, which is the administrative centre of the EU, they met with Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell-Fontelles as well as European Green Deal and Commissioner for Climate Action Policy, Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans.
The Ministers also met Vice President of the European Parliament, Heidi Hautala and Chair of International Trade, Bernd Lange.
Almost all the leaders they met have reacted positively and taken it to social media.
“Constructive discussion with #Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof and #Indonesia's Minister Airlangga Hartarto on bilateral matters, including the EU Deforestation Regulation.”
“Confirming our shared objective of fighting climate change and deforestation,” Borrell-Fontelles wrote on the micro-blogging site Twitter.
“Ready to support our partner countries!” Bernd Lange said.
“Getting ready for my upcoming trip to Indonesia, had a great exchange with Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs @airlangga_hrt and Malaysia's Vice PM Fadillah Yusof to find joint answers to environmental challenges.”
In a statement at the end of the mission yesterday, CPOPC said the joint mission can be described as a success.
“Most important, there is a need to follow up in ensuring the points raised and discussed are being addressed and reciprocated,” it said.
“While both Indonesia and Malaysia do not expect any tangible immediate outcome from all these meetings, both leaders sent a strong message on the importance for the EU to take cognisant of their wishes, at the same time pave the way for future collaborations and partnerships,” it said in a statement.
EU an important market for Malaysia
For Malaysia, the EU has always been an important market for palm oil. In 2022, the EU imports 1.47 million tonnes of palm oil.
The EU is also at the forefront of championing the sustainable palm oil agenda.
According to a September 2022 report titled “Sustainable Palm Oil: Europe’s Business”, the EU is by far the largest consumer of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) and accounts for 45 per cent of total global CSPO use.
This also places Europe as an important partner in stimulating the demand for sustainable palm oil in other nations.
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