Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday called for strengthening collaboration with Malaysia to protect palm oil exports from the two Southeast Asian countries that he believes are "discriminated against" by the European Union. In April, the European Parliament passed a law that aims to ban the import of several agricultural products, when they contribute to deforestation and run counter to climate change objectives.
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With this new text, the import into the EU of cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soy, wood, rubber, charcoal or beef will be banned if these products come from deforested land after December 2020. "Raw materials produced by Malaysia and Indonesia must not be discriminated against by other countries," the Indonesian president said at a joint press conference with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. "We must continue to strengthen this collaboration," he said after a meeting in Malaysia's administrative capital, Putrajaya. Indonesia produces more than half of the world's palm oil production, which is used for cooking locally, but also widely by industry around the world for biscuits, chocolate, margarine, as well as cosmetics.
The European Union is the third largest market for this product for Malaysia and Indonesia. But palm oil cultivation is accused by conservationists of encouraging deforestation of tropical forests in these countries. Plantation expansion has reduced and destroyed the habitat of many endangered species such as orangutans. The two leaders pledged to "cooperate closely against the European Union's highly discriminatory measures against palm oil," according to a statement. "They stressed the need for the European Union to respond swiftly to these discriminatory measures and work together towards a fair and equitable resolution." Malaysia and Indonesia jointly produce some 85% of the world's palm oil.