KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's bilateral partners should consider the impact of their policies on Malaysia holistically, and not just pick and choose issues to focus on, said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
The minister was asked to comment on defence relationships with the European nations after the European Union (EU) passed draft measures which included banning palm oil in motor fuels from 2021, a move that will adversely affect Malaysia's palm oil exports to the region.
"When we look at the defence relationship with Europe, we cannot detach that from economic considerations as well.
"So when a decision is made in the EU which will affect 650,000 smallholders and over 3.2 million Malaysians here, I think I will not be carrying my responsibility fully as Minister of Defence in dealing with certain countries in Europe, when this decision affects our own people," he said during a press conference in Dewan Rakyat here yesterday.
Plantation Industry and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong had on Tuesday said that Malaysia will impose trade restrictions on the EU if its decision does not change.
Hishammuddin said that he had raised the issue with his French counterpart, Florence Parly in a meeting here last month.
"I explained why we take this issue seriously and although we did not link it up to French assets, we have to stand firm when it comes to the interests of our country and our people.
"Those who want to have strong bilateral relations with us, we ask that you do not just look at economic considerations as separate from other matters, especially when it comes to defence," he said.
On whether negotiations for a multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) with France will be jeopardised due to the palm oil situation, Hishammuddin simply said such negotiations would take years.
"As you know the fighter jets the French are looking at (the Rafale), are also competing with the British who have left the EU, so that has to be taken into consideration.
"We do not have to decide on the MRCA now, let it take its course, but I would like to see our bilateral partners to not look at Malaysia as only a country they can sell defence assets to," he added.
Meanwhile, Hishammuddin also artfully dodged questions on when the election would be held, when he was asked if the Defence Services Asia Exhibition & Conference, which has been scheduled to be held from April 16 to 19 and named him as the minister, would still be held.
He dismissed the question but said that he was attending an Asean Education Ministers Meeting in Kuala Lumpur in 2008, when the Parliament was dissolved. Back then, he said he had continued with the meeting.