PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has decided not to file a World Trade Organisation (WTO) lawsuit against European Union restrictions on palm oil-based biofuel, Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said in Brussels.
She said it will instead seek to convince the EU to change its treatment of the crop in a review scheduled for 2021, Reuters reported.
The European Commission concluded last year that palm oil cultivation results in excessive deforestation and should not count towards renewable energy targets.
So palm oil-based diesel will not be regarded as renewable energy and its use in transport fuel will effectively be phased out from 2024.
Kok had said in July last year that Malaysia would launch a World Trade Organisation case against the EU by November. Indonesia did so in December, but Malaysia has not.
“We did have this intention, but we thought that before we come to Europe, we shouldn’t file the suit hastily,” she told Reuters in Brussels yesterday. “This is what we told Indonesia too.”
Kok, who met EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson on Wednesday, said Malaysian palm oil was much greener than its critics claim.
Forest cover in Malaysia has stayed above 50%, the government says, and the yield for palm oil per hectare far surpasses competing oils, such as from rapeseed or soybeans.
EU consumption of palm oil in food has been in steady decline, but its use as a biofuel has increased. Last year, the bloc consumed more than 7 million tonnes, with some 65% for energy, Reuters said.
Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce more than 85% of the world’s palm oil, and the EU plan to discuss the issue together. Kok said she wanted those discussions to speed up.
Malaysia believes it will find new markets. However, the world’s largest buyer of palm oil, India, last month asked importers to avoid purchases from Malaysia after its criticism of India’s action in Kashmir and a new citizenship law.
Kalyana Sundram, CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, said the disagreement would be sorted out, but the market would also play a role, drawing Indian buyers back after March.
Buyers were facing a premium of up to US$20 a tonne for Indonesian palm oil, he said, given an export tax that kicks in when the price hits a given threshold.
“That is not viable over the long term given the quantity they require. It’s a matter of time that the Indians, being savvy traders, will come back and look for the best pricing,” he said.