Malaysia and EU Square Off on Biofuels Trade Policy
Developing countries are pushing back in trade negotiations against EU demands for greater sustainability. Malaysia’s Trade and Industry Minister weighs in.
Although the EU is looking to biofuels to cut emissions, battle climate change and reduce dependence on fossil fuels, the bloc is considering whether to restrict imports of biofuels produced on former forest or farmland. By some accounts, the EU’s decision would wipe the region’s current biodiesel market off the map.
For Malaysia, this would have a direct impact on one of the country’s main exports, palm oil, which makes up 5 percent of its total exports to Europe last year for use in food and for conversion into biodiesel.
While palm oil is often cited as being grown on peatland whose conversion into plantations creates additional emissions, the Malaysian Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed is calling for transparency in how Europe measures the environmental impact of biofuels.
The EU and Malaysia are in negotiations for a free trade deal, but Malaysia has pushed back on the EU’s demand for strict environmental standards and labor standards. A deal, which the EU and Malaysia hope to conclude next year, should not include environmental or social targets, Mohamed said. ”We will never agree that trade in goods should be linked to sustainability and labour standards, that remains our position. They are separate issues,” he said.
The European Commission, which is pursuing separate bilateral agreements with individual countries in the Southeast Asian region in lieu of earlier efforts to strike a single regional agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), argues that, “Trade can no longer take place in isolation from the wider objective of sustainable development.”
The EU has run into fierce opposition over sustainability provisions in other talks as well.
More on EU’s biofuels negotiations:
- Reuters look at the Malaysia-EU biofuels discussions
- EcoSeed looks at biofuels trade talks between the EU and Mercosur