Fadillah: EU open for engagement over Deforestation Regulation, CPOPC proposing task force involving stakeholders

BRUSSELS: The is open for engagement to address issues raised by the on the , which is allegedly unjust and detrimental to free and fair trade.

Describing the first-ever higher-level meetings with the EU as a step forward, Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri said continuous engagement in the coming months is crucial to safeguard the industry's interest, especially for smallholders in Malaysia and .

“Overall, I am satisfied as the majority of the EU's top leaders that we met today agreed with our views with regard to issues on complying with the EUDR,” Fadillah told Malaysian media after a meeting with five of the EU's leaders on Wednesday (May 31).

Fadillah, who is also the plantation and commodities minister, is currently in Brussels, Belgium to represent Malaysia in a joint mission with Indonesia in response to the implementation of the EUDR announced by the EU on Dec 6, 2022, which is aimed at preventing deforestation due to agricultural activities.

Indonesia is represented by Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto.

The meeting was with the EU's Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell-Fontelle, as well as European Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal and Climate Action Policy Commissioner Frans Timmermans.

The ministers also met with the European Parliament's Vice-President Heidi Hautala and Chair of International Trade Bernd Lange.

Fadillah said the five EU leaders took the views of the CPOPC seriously, as it highlighted that discriminatory and unilateral actions such as the EUDR would have a negative impact on smallholders.

“Even though the law has been passed, we conveyed the CPOPC's dissatisfaction, as the law was made without discussing with the parties affected,” he said.

He added that the CPOPC wants the EU to recognise efforts that have been made towards ensuring the sustainable production of palm oil in producing countries in coming up with the guidelines for the EUDR.

For Malaysia, these include initiatives to stop cultivation in peatland areas and tightening regulations on existing oil palm plantations on peatland, banning the conversion of forest reserves for oil palm cultivation, and a pledge to provide a map of oil palm plantations for public access.

Fadillah also highlighted that Malaysia had announced its commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

The country is also committed to maintaining at least 50% forest cover as pledged at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, he said, adding that currently, Malaysia's forest cover is at 55.3%.

He also emphasised that the Malaysian government is committed to key policies related to sustainable palm oil.

Task force, discussions

“The leaders we met earlier have agreed in principle to engage [with the CPOPC] through dialogues or a task force, or whatever mechanism that will be agreed on later,” said Fadillah.

He added that Hautala had shared that the EU has had similar dialogues with players from the cocoa industry.

“It can be done. So, we will discuss the way forward,” he said.

The deputy prime minister said that any mechanism that will be used in the future needs to involve producing countries, industry players, representatives of non-governmental organisations and smallholders, so that there will be clarity in terms of the guidelines issued, and will not marginalise any party in the value chain.

He added that the EU representatives will be coming to Indonesia and Malaysia to engage with the stakeholders.

“We will discuss the details with regard to the technicalities that we had highlighted, and hopefully they will take our views into account in issuing the guidelines later on,” he said.

The joint mission with the government of Indonesia under the CPOPC was Fadillah's first official visit to the EU.

Malaysia and Indonesia are major contributors to the world's palm oil market, as the two countries account for 80% of the market.

Source : The Edge Markets

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