Further steps needed to thwart EU's move to ban palm oil in biofuels


More engagements, consultations and follow-up actions are needed to remove the European Union’s (EU) threat to ban palm oil use in biofuels, said industry veteran Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron.

The former Malaysian Palm Oil Council CEO said Malaysia’s stance was still not being heeded by the EU Parliament, despite various talks and engagements being undertaken and conducted at the government-to-government level.

“There have been clear statements by the governments of major palm oil-producing countries to oppose the ban and even those hinting at possible trade actions or retaliation, including consulting the World Trade Organisation, to deter the EU from implementing the discriminatory ban on palm oil for biofuels,” he said.

Yusof said the MPOC and the Malaysian Palm Oil Board representative offices in the EU recognised the need to counter the ban when the threat first emerged.

As a result, many initiatives had been taken, including continuous talks with the EU countries, to oppose the proposed ban by the trading bloc.

The EU Parliament voted on Jan 17, 2018, to ban palm oil-based biofuels by 2021, while other vegetable oil-based biofuels such as those from soya oil and rapeseed oil can continue to be used until 2030.

Spain was the latest EU country to speak out against the resolution after France, Sweden, the United Kingdom (Conservative MPs who are part of the governing party of Prime Minister Theresa May), Germany and the Netherlands.

Yusof said palm oil-producing countries had reacted to this singling out of palm biofuels for the ban as a trade discrimination that would affect the imports into the EU, because locally-produced soya and rapeseed oils were not similarly subjected to the ban.

“There are also Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who are sympathetic to maintaining good trade relations with palm oil-producing countries.

“This is reflected in an amendment submitted by 57 MEPs to drop the ban on palm biofuels. Nevertheless, 492 MEPs voted in favour of the ban, although the number was far less than the 640 who had voted for it in April 2017,” he said.

However, he said, it was common for the EU Parliament to vote based on popularity trends, knowing that the next round of scrutiny for approving the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) Bill would be done at the tripartite meeting or trilogue, where the council would discuss and recommend the final version of the RED Bill.

The trilogue to be held soon will consist of government representatives of EU member countries, the Commission and Parliament.

“It is already envisaged that the Council and Commission, being technically competent with the legal, economic and scientific ramifications of the proposed discriminatory ban on palm oil, are not supportive of the ban.

“We are hopeful that any future ban on the use of biofuels to be approved in the RED Bill will not be discriminatory towards palm oil,” Yusof said.


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