PULAU CAREY, March 24 — Putrajaya will consider retaliation if the European Union persists with its campaign against palm oil, the prime minister said when describing the offensive as disingenuous.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad dismissed the EU’s expressed concern over deforestation caused by oil palm cultivation and accused the bloc of using the claim as a cover to protect its own agriculture sector.
“This is not a question of demand or supply, but rather them trying to protect their own economy.
“We may have to retaliate. If they don’t want to buy our products, we won’t buy their things,” he said after launching the Sayangi Sawitku campaign at the Sime Darby Ladang East here this morning.
The PM stressed, however, that he was not talking about outright boycotts or trade wars, but explained that Malaysia would consider other countries as suppliers for products it currently purchases from the EU.
Among others, he said this could include defence procurements.
Dr Mahathir said he observed Pakistan’s use of Chinese military technology during his visit to the South Asian country and said Malaysia could follow suit.
“If they (the EU) keep taking action against us to impoverish us, we will have to think of buying planes from China, or from any other country.
“Their technological capabilities are not backward, some are more advanced than Western countries,” he said.
The EU is proposing legislation next month that will restrict the use of palm oil as a biofuel and completely ban it in transport use by 2030.
Malaysia is the world’s second-largest exporter of palm oil after Indonesia.
Dr Mahathir later said, during a press conference, that his stance on looking east was not a direct promotion to acquire Chinese products.
“This is to reject products from Europe who has made moves to impoverish us.
“They don’t care about the 600,000 of our rakyat (working at oil palm plantations), but as long as the tigers are safe,” he said in jest, referring to the environmental hazards stemming from palm oil plantations, as alleged by the EU.
He then explained how the suggestion to boycott European products was not an immediate decision, as was a move that required extensive evaluations.
“You cannot do this (boycott) impulsively, we have to study the effects and then only we can take action,” he explained.
Dr Mahathir added Malaysia would work alongside fellow Asian countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, in tackling and reinstating confidence into those supporting the anti-palm oil sentiments.
He also added that Malaysia’s commodity exports would suffer from the movement against palm oil if the situation remained the same.