Spain rejects move to discriminate palm oil

Bilateral meeting: Mah (right) in a bilateral meeting with delegates from the Spanish Ministry of International Trade, chaired by State Secretary of International Trade Maria Poncela Garcia (left row, in the centre). The meeting comes as part of the Malaysia–EU Oil Palm Negotiation Mission. Malaysia’s Ambassador to Spain Zainal Abidin Bakar (on Mah’s right) was also part of the Malaysian delegation.

PETALING JAYA: The Spanish government is rejecting any move leading to the discrimination of palm oil, following bilateral meetings with Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.

The stance is based on premises that the adaptation of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) could have negative repercussion towards Spain’s own biofuel industry and it does not adhere to the fair trade regulations in accordance to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

During the meetings, Mah raised Malaysia’s serious concern and firm position on the proposed ban on palm oil from RED by 2021.

“Malaysia opposes such unfair resolution as it singled out palm oil by 2021 but other vegetable oils receive a leeway until 2030 instead.

“This drastic attempt will adversely affect the income and livelihood of the 650,000 palm oil smallholders in Malaysia,” Mah reiterated in a statement issued here yesterday.

Mah further welcomed the commitment made by the Spanish government representatives and argued that if the ban is imposed, any substitute material towards palm oil will only result in higher cost.

The higher cost will unfortunately be absorbed by consumers and will also lead to financial and revenue losses for the Spanish biofuel industry.

Among the 28 EU countries, Spain uses the highest amount of feedstock from palm oil for its biofuel industry, as much as 70%.

On an annual basis, Spain imports nearly RM1bil worth of palm oil and palm oil-based products from Malaysia, making it the second-largest palm oil importing country among EU member countries after the Netherlands.

Representatives from the Spanish government further assured Malaysia that it will neither support nor adopt any proposal that goes against the WTO ruling.

During the dialogue, the Malaysian government was encouraged by the palm oil industry in Spain for continuing to strongly oppose discriminatory proposals by the EU Parliament. In addition, Spanish palm oil importers are willing to work hand in hand to address the growing negative consumer perception towards palm oil.

“We welcome the Spanish government’s steadfast and loyal support and Malaysia remains committed to go all out to ensure the palm oil industry will receive fair treatment it rightfully deserves,” said Mah.

Under the framework of the Malaysia-EU Oil Palm Negotiation Mission, Mah attended three bilateral meetings with representatives from the Spanish government on his first official day of the mission to the EU.

The bilateral meetings were held with State Secretary of Energy Daniel Navia Simon, State Secretary of International Trade Maria Poncela Garcia and Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Environment Jaimie Haddad in Madrid.

Apart from the bilateral meetings, Mah also attended a special dialogue session with major Spanish palm oil importers, also taking place in the Spanish capital.

The Malaysia-EU Oil Palm Negotiation Mission would make further headway with a series of meetings with other government representatives and EU commissioners in Belgium, the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland and Italy.

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