KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has voiced its disapproval with France for supporting the palm oil ban in Europe.
Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said he was disappointed that despite the mega-billion ringgit deals with France, it supported the move by the European Commission that the cultivation of palm oil resulted in excessive deforestation and environmental pollution.
“We have supported the French defence and aerospace industries by purchasing a lot of (civilian and military) Airbus aircraft and (two) Scorpene submarines from them.
“Yet, they are not supportive of our palm oil, owing to the negative environmental issues.
“It is also not true that palm oil is bad for health,” Mohamad told a media briefing at the Defence Ministry in Jalan Padang Tembak.
He added that Malaysia had joined Indonesia, two of the world’s largest palm oil producers, on a positive promotional campaign, globally.
“If need be, we will also drum up support from Asean countries during forums that can be used as a platform to counter the negativity about palm oil,” he said.
Already, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had hinted that the European palm oil ban could influence future procurement decisions.
Mohamad added that the Malaysian economy was expected to improve during Pakatan Harapan’s second year as the federal government, when foreign direct investments and suspended projects were revived.
“Right now, we are using available funds of RM24 billion to save the country’s two large Malay institutions – Tabung Haji and Felda (the Federal Land Development Authority).
“If we do not do that, both will ‘lingkup’ (fold up) and become an economic disaster,” he said.
Looking back, the Defence Ministry procured the two French submarines for the Royal Malaysian Navy reportedly for RM7 billion, making it the single largest defence purchase by Malaysia.
France also sold four Airbus 400M Atlas heavy-lift transport aeroplanes for the Royal Malaysian Air Force.
For the civilian market, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia had purchased tens of dozens of Airbus jetliners.
There are also over 100 Airbus civil and military helicopters in Malaysia.
And the French are wooing the RMAF to buy the Rafale multi-role combat fighter jet.
The New Straits Times Press also understands that the RMN is also negotiating with French shipbuilder DCNS to build littoral combat ships (LCS), three new multi-role support ships (MRSS) and two more submarines.
Mohamad also concurred with Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok that defence equipment procurement via offset deals was the way forward to prop up palm oil sales and the Malaysian economy.
Tomorrow, Mohamad is leading a high-level defence delegation to Moscow and is scheduled to meet Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and its President Vladimir Putin, during his four-day visit.
Mohamad is attempting to engage in billion-dollar trade-offs on defence and security procurement, including military aircraft, armaments and software, to spur palm oil sales via transfer of technology and job spin-offs.
Palm oil is one of Malaysia's most important commodities, contributing nearly 5 per cent to the country's gross domestic product, with last year’s exports reportedly worth RM62.7 billion.