Monday 19 August 2019 9:11 am

Malaysia offers UK post-Brexit trade deal on palm oil 'rethink'

Malaysia’s government has offered the UK a post-Brexit trade deal, with improved terms – but only if the country rethinks “the European Union’s misguided policy on palm oil”.

Writing in Bloomberg, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad claimed the EU’s 2017 decision to phase out and ultimately ban biofuels made from palm oil was not based on environmental factors but rather “to protect the agricultural industries of a few EU states”.

“If Europe was so concerned about the environmental impact of palm-oil cultivation, why has it just signed a trade deal with South America?,” he wrote. “Beef production there represents by far the world’s biggest agricultural cause of deforestation, dwarfing the CO2 emissions caused by palm oil.

“Moreover, EU nations that produce competing oilseeds such as rapeseed do so much less efficiently, producing a quarter to one tenth as much oil per unit of land while using more fertilizer and pesticides. This is why the International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently warned that a ban on palm oil would not stop deforestation but instead lead to greater consumption of land-intensive rapeseed, soy and sunflower to keep up with rising demand.”

Mohamad argues that Malaysia would not “overlook” environmental issues within trade talks “with anyone, whether the UK or EU”, but argues it is wrong to ban one commodity.

“This blatant hypocrisy is a form of modern colonialism that has no place in today’s world. By using trade as a weapon, the EU is in effect bullying poorer regions of the world.”

He argues that deals should be struck that incentivise sustainable palm oil production “rather than pursuing boycotts and protectionism”.

“A post-Brexit Britain would be free to follow such a course even if Europe doesn’t,” he adds. “We hope to avoid a trade war with Europe. But if one transpires, that doesn’t mean the UK has to get caught in the crossfire.”

Main image: Getty