Home Commodities The UK is set to scrap import duties on Malaysian palm oil

The UK is set to scrap import duties on Malaysian palm oil

by SuperiorInvest

The British government plans to scrap import duties on palm oil from Malaysia, a product blamed for widespread deforestation, as a price for joining an Asia-Pacific trade deal, according to people involved in the talks, sparking outrage from green campaigners.

Britain is completing entry conditions to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), an 11-member regional trade agreement, after two years of negotiations.

Malaysia, one of the pact’s members, successfully asked Britain to cut its palm oil tariffs – which currently stand at up to 12 percent – to zero immediately after joining the pact, people familiar with the talks said.

Alex Wijeratna, senior director of deforestation group Mighty Earth, said: “The removal of tariffs on palm oil products from Malaysia without any environmental safeguards makes it very difficult for the UK to call itself a climate leader committed to tackling deforestation and protecting precious habitats. endangered species.”

People familiar with the matter said the UK at one point had envisaged a phase-out period of several years on palm oil, which Malaysia opposed.

The UK is expected to finalize a broad agreement on the pact in the next few weeks before a final signature in the summer.

Activists say deforestation to create palm plantations is damaging biodiversity © Matthew Lambley/Alamy

Although the pact has negligible economic impact for the UK, ministers are strongly promoting it as an example of an independent trade policy after Brexit.

The Department for Trade and Commerce, which is leading the CPTPP negotiations for the UK, said it could not comment on the negotiations.

Palm oil, which is harvested from the oil palm, is used in a huge range of food and household products. Activists say deforestation to create palm plantations is damaging biodiversity, particularly destroying orangutan habitats. Malaysia is the world’s second largest producer of palm oil after Indonesia, which is not a member of the CPTPP.

Compared to the EU, which maintains tariffs on palm oil and also plans tough new rules against imports linked to deforestation, the UK has a relatively light regulatory approach, with a law that only addresses deforestation defined as illegal according to local laws in producing countries.

Clare Oxborrow, senior sustainability analyst at Friends of the Earth, said the plans were deeply worrying and could lead to more devastating loss of forest ecosystems.

“This concession is completely at odds with the Government’s commitment to reduce deforestation from UK supply chains. We need strong legislation to ensure that the products we consume in the UK do not harm forests, communities and wildlife overseas,” she said.

Because each of the CPTPP members has veto power over new countries joining the pact, the UK is in a weak position to resist demands for changes to its customs regime and other policies. The pact also contains a controversial investor-state dispute settlement provision that allows companies to sue governments for violations of public international law.

The negotiators said Canada, another CPTPP member, had asked the UK to lift its rules against importing growth hormone-raised beef, although London rejected the request and instead is granting new quotas for hormone-free beef.

The UK’s minimal economic gains from joining the CPTPP reflect both Britain’s geographical distance from the region and its existing bilateral agreements with most major economies, including Japan, Singapore, Mexico and Canada, which were transferred from its EU membership.

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