KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 20 — The governments of Malaysia and Indonesia may go to the International Court of Justice over the European Union’s (EU) anti-palm oil initiatives, the Nikkei Asian Review reported.
Following an official visit by Indonesian President Joko Widodo earlier this month, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir said both Malaysia and Indonesia were concerned and disappointed by the negative publicity campaigns against palm oil in Europe.
“We are very disappointed and we feel that this [anti-palm oil campaign] is not so much because of palm oil is dangerous to health, but more because of the competition in the edible oil business,” Dr Mahathir told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview, adding that Malaysia and Indonesia are “thinking about” taking the issue to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
“This is about world trade, and we have to look into trading practices first. If it breaches any international law, of course, we will go to the international court,” he was quoted saying.
Dr Mahathir said the two countries have agreed to intensify bilateral cooperation to counter the blitz of negative publicity over the use of palm oil.
The PM said there has been a slight improvement in the sentiments among Europeans over palm oil due to the various promotional activities conducted by Malaysian palm oil agencies.
“There have been some responses towards our campaigns. If these responses materialise and increase the awareness for the need for Europeans not to discriminate against palm oil, this idea of boycott will not be carried out,” he was quoted saying.
As Malaysia has only reached 42 per cent target of the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification programme, Dr Mahathir says it would be a difficult task to meet the 100 per cent certification target by the end of 2019.
The MSPO emulates the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which is widely recognised and accepted in Europe and other Western countries.
“We still have 58 per cent to go, and the time by year-end is limited. We might not achieve 100 per cent, but we will try very hard.
“The MSPO is about adhering to best practices in regards to the environment and preservation of the forest. When we do this, the intention is we would not cause more of our forest to be cut down and disturb the habitats,” he was quoted saying.
On August 7, Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok Suh Sim said Malaysia will engage with EU politicians to remove their misconceptions about the palm oil business.
Malaysia is making efforts to give the EU leaders more information about plantations and the commodity as some countries in the 28-member bloc have negative views about oil palm cultivation.
Malaysia’s palm oil industry generated RM67.5 billion in export earnings in 2018. The country produced more than 19.5 million tonnes of crude palm oil from a planted area of 5.85 million hectares.