Malaysia to challenge EU’s plan to phase out biofuel

Royal touch: Sultan Nazrin officiating at the launch of the conference. Looking on is Incorporated Society of Planters chairman Datuk Daud Amatzin (right).

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will bring a World Trade Organisation (WTO) challenge against the European Union (EU) over its plans to phase out palm biofuel.

Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said Malaysia would submit the complaint to the WTO by November to challenge the restrictions before she heads to the EU to meet the newly appointed Members of the European Parliament (MEP) and the new European commissioners.

“We will be pursuing the matter with the WTO, and in fact, the documents are with the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) now. My ministry already had a discussion with the AGC and they are assisting us.

“They are also helping us to identify some experts who can argue our case against the EU in the WTO.

“A lot of things are in place now,” she told a press conference during the interval of the 9th International Planters Conference 2019 here yesterday.

Kok will be meeting with her Indonesian counterpart today about the matter during the ministerial meeting of the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC).

It will focus on what to do with the EU’s restrictions and discuss if both countries should file a joint complaint. Most likely, we’ll go alone but strategically, it would be good for us to go together with Indonesia,” she said.

When asked if the complaint that Malaysia plans to submit would influence the achievement of the free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU, Kok said there was actually a Cabinet paper several weeks ago that the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) would continue negotiating the FTA with the EU with palm oil as part of the talks.

“I think the EU is very interested to have closer economic ties with Malaysia and also Indonesia. That’s why for strategic reasons, when we deal with the WTO, we have to also discuss with Indonesia.

“If you look at the market of both countries, Indonesia’s population of 265 million plus 32 million in Malaysia is close to 300 million. It is a market that the EU cannot neglect,” she said.

Kok added that it was also important for Malaysia to push for a higher blending of biodiesel. The Primary Industries Ministry, Miti and other ministries are currently working together to try to implement the B20 biodiesel by next year.

She said a lot of meetings have been held to discuss the implementation. One such meeting yesterday afternoon was with some car dealers, where they were urged to introduce and inform their principals that Malaysia was moving towards B20 and hoped that warranties could be given for vehicles using the B20 blend and above.

Meanwhile, on the issue of the labour shortage in the plantation sector, Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran said there was currently a moratorium against Bangladesh but the matter was in the final stage and was expected to be concluded in one to two months.

“At the same time, we also want to have a mechanism put in place to ensure that workers who come here, leave the country upon the completion (of their contract).

:The mechanism is being discussed and worked out. There’s no formula on that matter now.

“The moratorium will be lifted provided the issues that were brought up are addressed. The exploitation of workers, agency fees and all these issues must holistically be answered in the affirmative and then only can we open up the market,” Kulasegaran said, adding that this would then substantially ease the shortage.

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