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The pitfalls of Malaysia’s palm oil defence

21 5 0

As palm oil trade tensions drag on, Malaysia has slated another round of EU lobbying and a joint World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute filing with Indonesia for November 2019.

These are two of many strategies that are being deployed by Putrajaya to halt the European Commission’s Delegated Act. The Act aims to restrict and eventually phase out high indirect land-use change (ILUC) biofuels (biofuels whose production involves deforestation and high carbon emissions) from being counted in contributions towards renewable energy targets. Considering that palm oil has been identified as a prime cause of deforestation, Malaysia’s EU-bound exports that go towards fuel production are directly in the line of fire.

Malaysia has launched a 2019 ‘Love MY Palm Oil’ campaign to limit palm oil’s bad press and to establish a counter-narrative on its benefits. Meanwhile, the industry is shoring up exports to alternative markets, such as India and China. Putrajaya is also gunning for Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification, while halting plantation expansions and focusing instead on improving palm oil yields to prove that the commodity can and does dovetail with environment-conscious frameworks.

While these strategies could bring about a resolution in Malaysia’s favour in the near-to-medium term, they may not address the sustainability issues bedevilling the palm oil debate, leaving it vulnerable to attacks in the long run.

That Putrajaya is looking for a........

© Asian Correspondent