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Difficult to conclude FTA with EU if palm oil continues to be discriminated: Mah


pix of mah

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia's free trade agreement talks with the European Union (EU) is not likely to conclude if palm oil continues to be discriminated with tariff and technical trade barriers, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong said today.

"The EU is our biggest palm oil market. Last year, we exported RM10 billion worth of palm products to the EU. The EU is a very important trading partner," he told reporters after the ministry's Aidilfitri open house celebration here today.

"If the EU continues to discriminate against palm oil, I think it would be very difficult to conclude the free trade agreement. We don't want trade barriers to work against our palm oil exports," he said.

Mah throws in his firm support to Malaysia's Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed's initiative to join hands with Indonesia's Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita to file a complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the EU's discriminatory stance against palm oil.

Mah attested the EU resolution on deforestation and the ongoing defamatory palm oil labelling by food companies and supermarket chains in Europe is hurting palm oil sales from Malaysia and Indonesia.

"Malaysia and Indonesia supplies around 60 million tonnes of palm oil or 86 per cent of global output. We must protect our rights," he said.

"If we need to proceed to the WTO, we will because the livelihoods of some five million smallholders cultivating oil palms, in this region, is at stake," he added.

Two weeks ago, France Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot announced his country will close a window on usage of palm oil in biofuels.

Hulot reportedly said France wants to stop "imported deforestation" and simply alleged Asia and Latin America's cultivation of oil palms and soyabean is not eco-friendly.

Mah highlighted if France continues to insist on unfair measures against palm oil trade, Malaysia can and will take on reciprocal measures, too.

"We also buy a lot of things from France. That is all I can say, for now. We do not want to fight out this trade war in the newspapers. I hope this can be settled amicably," Mah added.