Indonesia and Malaysia line up against Brussels
Indonesia’s President Jokowi and Malaysian PM Anwar Ibrahim declared their position during the first meeting of the two leaders on January 9, stating that they “agreed to strengthen cooperation to boost markets and combat discrimination against palm oil”.
Last week, Malaysian Foreign Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir told reporters: “The EU deforestation policy is a step against good kinship. Jokowi’s speech has made it clear that [...] the policy is of concern to ASEAN. That the EU cannot dictate. This is an opportunity for Indonesia and Malaysia to join forces and be united in our voices. We stand with Jokowi on this matter.”
A new found cooperation between the two may be a significant blow for the EU in the region. Although the EU-ASEAN Summit produced few substantive results, EU officials had pinned their hopes on stronger bilateral relationships.
The Deforestation Regulation may set this back, with Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister calling the regulation “a deliberate act by Europe to block market access, hurt small farmers and protect a domestic oilseeds market that is inefficient and cannot compete with the cost of palm oil”.
Indonesia and Malaysia have worked closely together on palm oil before, scuttling the EU’s hopes of a stronger partnership with ASEAN in 2019.
This new approach, alongside greater coordination among developing countries on forests, may put Western countries - and Western media organisations - on notice when it comes to palm oil and forests.