A mission, comprising the Ministry of Plantations and Commodities of Malaysia, the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, andthe Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) made a visit to Brussels, Belgium, on 30th and 31st of May 2023.
This Mission was jointly led by YAB Dato’ Sri Haji Fadillah bin Haji Yusof, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister ofPlantation and Commodities of Malaysia, and H.E. Airlangga Hartarto, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia. This wasa follow-up to the decision made at the Bilateral Ministerial Meeting of CPOPC held on 9th February 2023 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The main objective of the visit was to convey Indonesia and Malaysia’s concerns and objection to the newly legislated EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) to reiterate the importance of commodities namely palm oil to the economy and the well-being of its people in both countries.
Indonesia and Malaysia viewed that EUDR which is inherently discriminatory and punitive in nature, that would not only have detrimental effects on international trade but would also hinder the palm oil industry’s efforts on the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Both countries expressed their hope that the EU would observe the principles of transparency, non-discrimination, consistent with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and regulations, particularly in trading palm oil and its products.
Indonesia andMalaysia believed that the EUDR should not create trade distortion nor be discriminatory in terms of product coverage and national treatment. While developing countries continue to engage in building a sustainable multilateral trading system, it is imperative that new regulations should be achieved through a balance, inclusive, deliberated, and non-trade restrictive approach.
While in Brussels, the Joint Mission had positive engagements with various leaders of the EU Commission and Parliament.
The meetings were conducted in a cordial, frank, and open manner. In the meetings with Executive Vice-President (EVP) Frans Timmermans, European Green Deal and Commissioner for Climate Action Policy, Josep Borrell-Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries,
Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Heidi Hautala, Vice President of the European Parliament, and MEP Bernd Lange, Chair of International Trade (INTA) Committee, the Indonesian and Malaysian leaders highlighted on the impacts of the EUDR on the value chain and consistently emphasized on the need for EU to engage with the producing countries at the working and technical level. There is also a need for the establishment of a consultative engagement by both parties to discuss ways and means of its implementation. Issues to be resolved include the inclusion of smallholders in the supply chain, acceptance of the national sustainable certification schemes as references to the implementation guidelines, technical clarification on the benchmarking system, geolocation, legality, and traceability.
The Joint Mission look forward to getting a positive response to the above issues and concerns in particular the setting-up of a joint task force. Both leaders reiterated the seriousness of the need for these issues to be resolved in view of its consequential repercussion.
Both countries underscored that, in connection with the country benchmarking system being developed by the European Commission, labelling a country as a high, standard, and low-risk has consequences to the sovereignty and image ofthe country. Therefore, the EU must carefully take into account and be aware of the labelling effects. Indonesia, and Malaysia strongly urge the EU to ensure that both Indonesia and Malaysia are low-risk countries.
Meetings with palm oil stakeholders, industry representatives and civil societies organisations in Europe were also held concurrently during the visit to Brussels. The leaders briefed the various stakeholders on the intent of this visit and the outcome of the meetings with the EU leaders.
While both Indonesia and Malaysia do not expect any tangible immediate outcome from all these meetings, both leaders sent a strong message on the importance for the EU to take cognisant of their wishes, at the same time pavesthe way for future collaborations and partnership.8. In conclusion, the Joint Mission can be described as a success. Most important, there is a need to follow up in ensuring the points raised and discussed are being addressed and reciprocated. CPOPC would like to take this opportunity to thank both our Missions in Brussels for the assistance rendered towards making the mission possible.