Malaysia and France will hold joint dialogues and strengthen engagements to promote better understanding of the palm oil industry, said the Primary Industries Ministry.
Its minister, Teresa Kok said this followed a courtesy call on her from French Ambassador to Malaysia Frederic Laplanche here yesterday where they discussed ways to enhance bilateral cooperation and dialogues on palm oil, as well as encouraging engagements between lawmakers from both countries.
This was prompted by the French National Assembly’s decision to exclude the use of palm oil as a biodiesel feedstock and to end tax incentives for palm oil as of 2020.
“We hope this will further address many questions related to palm oil production and sustainability among French lawmakers and its consumers,” Kok said in a statement yesterday.
The Parliamentary Friendship Group set up between French and Malaysian parliamentarians in 2018 with focus on bilateral cooperation, as well as the Malaysia-France Business Council meeting in March, will discuss at length various palm oil related matters.
Laplanche also notified Kok of French Environment Ambassador Wehrling Yann’s plan to visit Malaysia to get a first-hand exposure on Malaysia’s sustainable palm oil practices and conservation efforts.
Laplanche proposed to take advantage of Yann’s visit, slated for April, to hold the Malaysia-France Joint Committee on Palm Oil Cooperation meeting to promote a dialogue on palm oil, as well as to organise visits to oil palm plantations and wildlife conservation sites as part of the itinerary.
In an effort to deal with negative perception among French consumers towards palm oil, he said the French Embassy would be coordinating a programme involving the Institute of Higher Studies for Science and Technology in France focusing on infrastructure development, higher education and the palm oil industry.
The programme will be participated by academicians, as well as private sector and government officials from both sides, and its outcomes will be tabled in the French Parliament.
The Minister and Laplanche also discussed the French National Assembly’s move to amend its 2019 Budget on Dec 19, 2018 to exclude the use of palm oil as biodiesel feedstock and end fiscal incentives for palm oil from Jan 1, 2020.
Laplanche said this would be adopted as law in France.
Last month, Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad sent a protest letter to French President Emmanuel Macron, asking the latter to reject the French National Assembly’s move, adding that it could lead to “regrettable (bilateral) economic and trade consequences”.
Kok said the move had upset Malaysia as it was seen as a de facto ban as the removal of the fiscal incentive would increase palm oil price and create a disincentive for its continued use as raw material for renewable energy.
“The French National Assembly also decided to treat palm oil biofuel as regular fuel and not green fuel, despite the assurance of the French Government in January 2018 that it would not discriminate palm oil,” she said.
Laplanche pointed out that the French government was not against palm oil and that it had approved a bio-refinery owned by France’s Total Oil group with an anticipated utilisation of 350,000 metric tonnes of palm oil per annum.
He said more research on the benefits of palm oil should be publicised as there appeared to be more negative findings on palm oil being circulated that were influencing public perception in Europe.
Laplanche said the French President would soon respond to Dr Mahathir’s letter. — Bernama