Saturday, October 19

WTO action, Asean-EU relations review planned over palm oil discrimination

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KUALA LUMPUR: A complaint to the World trade Organisation (WTO) and a review of Asean-European Union (EU) relations are among the more drastic measures to be taken if discrimination against palm oil by the latter does not end.

Deputy International Trade and Industry (Miti) Minister Ong Kian Ming said as a member of the WTO, Malaysia had the choice of bringing the issue to its dispute settlement body.

“But, this can only be done, after the method of implementation and new rules on the issue are made clear by the EU. This will enable affected members to evaluate more clearly those aspects which conflict with the WTO’s own rules.

“Malaysia and Indonesia have also received the cooperation of Asean member countries to call for a postponement of the elevation in status of the regional grouping with that of the EU from dialogue partner to strategic partner until the palm oil ban issue is settled,” he told the Dewan Rakyat here yesterday.

He said this in answer to a question from Jeli member of parliament Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, who asked of the latest measures by the government to overcome the issue of the EU’s discrimination towards palm oil.

Mustapa, who was also the former Miti Minister, was previously reported as saying the EU’s plan to exclude palm oil from the biofuel and renewable energy mix in 2021 had the potential of being in conflict with WTO rules.

Ong said apart from this, other initiatives undertaken by the government at the WTO level was creating an alliance known as the Friends of Palm Oil (FPO) in Geneva, Switzerland, in April 2017.

The FPO comprises representatives of key palm oil producer countries in the WTO, namely Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Honduras.

“Among the steps taken is to jointly voice their protest at various committee meetings of the trade body.  FPO also organised a special session at the WTO public forum on Sept 26, 2017 in an effort to correct the negative perception towards palm oil based on scientific facts and statistics,” Ong said.

He said the government had also registered its protest over the palm issue at various meetings at the levels of committees and councils, such as the technical barrier to trade council, council for trade in goods, as well as trade and environment, to pressure the EU to reconsider the proposal that discriminates against palm oil. — Bernama