As Southeast Asia and the world’s largest palm oil producer, Indonesia has successfully managed to include all vegetable oils alongside palm oil, in sustainability discussion between the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Indonesian foreign ministry said.
“Indonesia has successfully expanded the coverage of discussions at the JWG to include all vegetable oils from the parameters of le oil, not only palm oil, and agreed to look at the challenges of vegetable oils using the parameters of the achievements of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030,” the ministry said in a report it uploaded on its official website. JWG refers to the Joint Working Group on Palm Oil between ASEAN and the European Union which convened virtually for the first time on January 27, 2021.
JWG was an initiative which had already been floated since January 2019, but was only agreed by all side on December 1, 2020 at the 23rd Ministerial Meeting between ASEAN and the European Union.
This achievement of the Indonesian diplomacy, means that discussions on the sustainability of palm oil was now brought to the same level as discussion on other vegetable oils such as from canola, sunflower, olive and soy beans. Indonesia had previously accused the European Union of being discriminative against palm oil because it did not apply the same strict sustainability standard for palm oil to the other vegetable oils.
“The challenge of sustainable development is how we can minimalize the opening of new land and to boost the effectivity of existing land, considering that the demands for vegetable oils will continue to increase in the future,” Indonesian Deputy Foreign Minister Mahendra Siregar said in his opening remark at the meeting.
The ministry report also said that the European Union had agreed that the continuous opening of new land would carry a bad impact on the environment and the biodiversity, the existing flora and fauna. ASEAN and the European Union needed to discuss this in detail, it said.
“It is hoped that this JWG can develop joint policies to achieve sustainable vegetable oils for ASEAN and the EU. I also hope that in the future, ASEAN and the EU can develop a vegetable oil certification that is mutually recognized,” Siregar added.
The first JWG meeting discussed the scopes of vegetable oils, data and information, as well as proposals for technical cooperation that needed to be prepared for discussions at the next JWG meeting that is scheduled to be held on April 19, 2021.