Asean slams EU again for palm-oil import curbs


Member-states of the  Association of Southeast Asian Nations criticized the European Union (EU)  for imposing restrictions on palm-oil imports, which could cripple the palm-oil industry of Indonesia and Malaysia.

In his chairman’s statement at the 31st Asean Summit, President Duterte said he and his fellow leaders recognize with “deep concern” the concern of some Asean member-states over restricted market access for palm oil in Europe. Indonesia and Malaysia are top exporters of palm oil.

According to the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), Indonesia and Malaysia export at least 4.37 million tons (MT) and 2.09 MT of palm oil, respectively, to Europe every year. However, this industry is expected to take a hit from the European Parliament’s Resolution on Palm Oil and Deforestation of Rainforests adopted in April.

The resolution aims to develop a new, single certification scheme for palm oil, as well as palm-oil products, by 2020 and, in the process, phase out and replace palm oil used in biofuels with EU-grown vegetable oils, also by 2020.

Losing Europe as a market will devastate numerous communities within Southeast Asia, including migrant workers from Myanmar who work in palm-oil plantations and Indonesian and Malaysian small enterprises who contribute about 40 percent of global palm-oil production, according to the SIIA.

Because of this, Asean leaders have collectively slammed the European Union, for the second time this year, for its alleged bias against palm-oil producing countries.

“These restrictions do not reflect the commitment by the global community toward meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and entail adverse implications for the palm-oil industry, a critical economic element in producer countries within Asean,” the statement read.

The President’s statement at the 30th Asean Summit has also called out the EU resolution, saying it discriminates against palm-oil cultivation by singling it out as the largest contributor to deforestation.

“We urged the European Union to recognize the certification of the sustainable palm-oil schemes in the countries concerned, which is a manifestation of our commitment to the [United Nations] Sustainable Development Goals,” the previous statement read.

The EU has adopted the resolution to honor the regional bloc’s commitment to several international treaties for the protection of the environment, including those within the framework of Conference of Parties 21, the United Nations Forum on Forests and the UN Convention on Biological Biodiversity.

The European Union resolution has pointed to palm-oil cultivation as the main contributor to deforestation, and is responsible for land-use conversion and numerous incidents of wildfire.

If enforced, the EU will impose a tighter importation policy on palm oil, including the implementation of an “environmental burden-based tariff scheme.” It will also introduce nondiscriminatory tariff and nontariff barriers on palm oil based on its carbon footprint and a “polluter pays” principle.


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