M’sia-Indonesia joint mission to Brussels to voice Deforestation Regulation concerns a success

Oil palm plantation (file photo)

KUCHING, May 31: Malaysia’s Ministry of Plantations and Commodities, Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, and the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) visited Brussels, Belgium, on May 30 and May 31.

According to a press release from CPOPC, the main objective was to convey Indonesia and Malaysia’s concerns and objections to the newly legislated EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) in order to reiterate the importance of commodities, namely palm oil to the economy and the well-being of the people of both countries.

The mission was jointly led by Deputy Prime Minister Dato Sri Fadillah Yusof, who is also Minister of Plantation and Commodities, and Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia HE Airlangga Hartarto.

The visit was a follow-up to the decision made at the CPOPC Bilateral Ministerial Meeting on February 9, 2023 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“Indonesia and Malaysia viewed that EUDR, which is inherently discriminatory and punitive in nature, 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).

“Both countries expressed their hope that the EU would observe the principles of transparency and non-discrimination, consistent with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and regulations, particularly in trading palm oil and its products.

“Indonesia and Malaysia believed that the EUDR should not create trade distortion nor be discriminatory in terms of product coverage and national treatment,” the statement said.

CPOPC explained that while developing countries continue to engage in building a sustainable multilateral trading system, it is imperative that new regulations should be achieved through a balanced, inclusive, deliberated, and non-trade restrictive approach.

“While in Brussels, the Joint Mission had positive engagements with various leaders of the EU Commission and Parliament.

“The meetings were conducted in a cordial, frank, and open manner. In the meetings with Executive Vice-President (EVP) Frans Timmermans, European Green Deal and Commissioner for Climate Action Policy, Josep Borrell-Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Heidi Hautala, Vice President of the European Parliament, and MEP Bernd Lange, Chair of International Trade (INTA) Committee, the Indonesian and Malaysian leaders highlighted on the impacts of the EUDR on the value chain and consistently emphasised on the need for EU to engage with the producing countries at the working and technical level.

“There is also a need for the establishment of a consultative engagement by both parties to discuss ways and means of its implementation. Issues to be resolved include the inclusion of smallholders in the supply chain, acceptance of the national sustainable certification schemes as references to the implementation guidelines, technical clarification on the benchmarking system, geolocation, legality, and traceability.”

CPOPC said that the Joint Mission looks forward to getting a positive response to the above issues and concerns, in particular the setting-up of a joint task force.

“Both countries underscored that, in connection with the country benchmarking system being developed by the European Commission, labelling a country as a high, standard, and low-risk has consequences to the sovereignty and image of the country.

“Therefore, the EU must carefully take into account and be aware of the labelling effects. Indonesia and Malaysia strongly urge the EU to ensure that both Indonesia and Malaysia are low-risk countries.”

CPOPC further said meetings with palm oil stakeholders, industry representatives, and civil societies organisations in Europe were also held concurrently during the visit to Brussels. The leaders briefed the various stakeholders on the intent of this visit and the outcome of the meetings with the EU leaders.

“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 paves the way for future collaborations and partnership.

“In conclusion, 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.” — DayakDaily