Malaysia will stand firm to protect its interests: HishammuddinMarch 8, 2018 @ 5:54PM
By NSTP TEAM
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, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said.
Responding to questions on the European Union’s decision to curb imports of palm oil, he said the EU decision would affect 650,000 smallholders and over 3.2 million Malaysians.
“So when we look at the defence relationship with Europe, we cannot detach that from economic considerations as well.
“I think I will not be carrying out my responsibility as the Minister of Defence in dealing with certain countries in Europe, when this decision (to curb imports of palm oil) affects our own people,” he said here.
On Tuesday, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong was reported to have said that Malaysia would impose trade restrictions on the EU if its decision on the palm oil issue was not reversed.
Hishammuddin said he too 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 would 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.
France’s Rafale jet, built by Dassault Aviation, had until recently been seen as the frontrunner in Malaysia’s plan to buy up to 18 new fighter planes in a deal potentially worth over US$2 billion.
*Reports by: NAZURA NGAH; HIDIR REDUAN; FAIRUL ASMAINI MOHD PILUS; VEENA BABULAL; FARHANA SYED NOKMAN; LUQMAN ARIF ABDUL KARIM ; AHMAD SUHAEL ADNAN