FRENCH Ambassador to Malaysia Frédéric Laplanche addressed the misunderstanding related to the move by the European Union (EU) Parliament, which had passed a Delegated Act on June 10 to restrict and ban palm oil biofuel altogether by 2030.
He said there was no ban for palm oil going into EU. The misunderstanding, said Laplanche, could have been triggered by the current situation that France and EU were gradually withdrawing subsidies for palm oil as a biofuel.
Despite the withdrawal, he insisted that the European market would remain open to palm oil.
“There will be no ban against palm oil in Europe. This is one of the elements of our relationships with Malaysia and Indonesia.
“And we are looking at that very carefully. We are listening very closely to what Malaysia and Indonesia are saying.
“We are very clear that we are not closing the market but changing our subsidy policy,” he said during the New Straits Times (NST) Insight Discussion titled “Brexit: Impact on the EU and Beyond” at Balai Berita here.
Laplanche was among a two-member panel who included German Ambassador to Malaysia Nikolaus Graf Lambsdorff.
The hour-long forum was telecast live on NST Online’s Facebook, and moderated by Tan Sri Mohd Munir Abdul Majid, a former NST group editor.
The EU, Laplanche said, was the second largest client for Malaysian palm oil in the world after India. For the first half of this year, EU imports of palm oil from Malaysia grew by six per cent.
“Apart from that, palm oil makes up roughly five per cent of Malaysia’s export to the EU. The rest are growing very quickly and very large.
“Malaysia has a very large trade surplus in its relationship with the EU. So there are plenty of good solid opportunities for Malaysia in the European market, which will continue to grow.”
Lambsdorff also applauded Malaysia for its political stability, which has attracted foreign direct investment from German companies.
He, however, said it was imperative for Malaysia to continue to improve its policies in order to become a top investment destination among foreign multinationals.
“I think Malaysia should have an eye on what Vietnam is doing. Many German companies are now going to Vietnam.
“At the same time, many of our companies are leaving China. I think that is another opportunity for Malaysia to look into.”
He said the global market had become increasingly competitive, even for Germany.
“With the right move, Malaysia can become an attractive investment destination. Having said that, the whole world is competing for foreign direct investment.
“Even we (German) are not investing enough at home, which is similar to Malaysian businesses.
“However, we are one of the biggest exporters of capital worldwide. So our monies are constantly looking for places to go to and Malaysia is still in a pretty good position.”
On a separate issue, Laplanche said France, as a member of EU, was keen on restarting negotiations for a European Union-Asean free trade agreement (FTA).
“Ten years ago, we started an idea on negotiating an EU-Asean FTA. But we quickly realised it would not be ready. So, we agreed to negotiate with the (Asean) countries one by one.
“We have signed an FTA with Vietnam and Singapore, and we are negotiating one with Indonesia.
“For Malaysia, we certainly hope to restart negotiations and the aim is still to have an EU-Asean FTA, if we can. But it will depend on the level of integration and the ability of Asean member states to get together for negotiations.”