“Visit by Coordinating Minister Luhut Pandjaitan to Brussels to defend Indonesia’s palm oil”
(Brussels) Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Pandjaitan conducted a working visit to Brussels from 23-24 April 2018. This visit is part of Indonesia’s palm oil diplomacy efforts aimed at stakeholders from the European Union, including the European Commission and European Parliament, and Belgium. This working visit follows the report adopted by the European Parliament last January regarding the EU’s renewable energy directive. The report recommended the phasing out of palm oil-based biofuels by 2021. Minister Luhut is the special envoy for palm oil, appointed by President Joko Widodo.
On Monday (23/4), Minister Luhut met with the EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström to convey the importance of the palm oil industry to Indonesia’s economy.
“I conveyed to Commissioner Malmström, the significance of palm oil in helping increase the livelihood of farmers in many developing countries, not only Indonesia,” he said.
To counter the deforestation claims prevalent in the EU, Minister Luhut presented Indonesia’s efforts in managing its palm oil industry that prioritizes environmental sustainability.
“Almost all palm oil from Indonesia has received international certification. On health concerns, we conducted research and requested independent consultants to assess the negative effects of palm oil towards health, to which palm oil as part of a balanced diet has none,” he further explained.
Minister Luhut mentioned that during the meeting, both he and Commissioner Malmström expressed the hope that any future decision on palm oil in the EU would satisfy all parties.
Indonesia and the EU are currently negotiating a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to which both principals hoped that the palm oil issue would not become a stumbling block to achieving this deal. Minister Luhut emphasized Indonesia’s commitment to expediate the IEU-CEPA negotiations, considering such trade deal affects all export products from Indonesia, not just palm oil.
Minister Luhut held a press briefing after his meeting with the EU’s Trade Commissioner. Reporters asked whether Indonesia would launch retaliatory measures against the EU, to which he anwered there are no plans by the government to take such measures.
“I am here for the interest of the farmers, their families, and everyone else who rely on this business, more than 16 million people. We have no plans for retaliation. It is a fact that we would need 2500 airplanes for the next 20 years. Airbus is important for us and we have no plans to acquire all from Boeing, but we believe the EU understands our concerns and will resolve the matter. We are also considering the Airbus M400 for our military, this offer has been conveyed to me,” Luhut explained.
In the evening, Minister Luhut joined a discussion event with various EU stakeholders, including members of the European Parliament, officials from the European Commission, ambassadors of EU countries and palm oil producing countries based in Brussels, and representatives from the industry. As key resource person, Minister Luhut presented a profile on the palm oil sector of Indonesia. The Minister emphasized the importance of this sector in helping to eradicate poverty and increase prosperity, considering the significant role of smallholder farmers who account for 41% of total plantation owners.
Minister Luhut will also be meeting with the EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and the Belgian State Secretary for International Trade on Tuesday (24/4). The Minister is scheduled for meetings in the Vatican, the Netherlands and Germany, as part of Indonesia’s palm oil diplomacy. (kbribrux/pen)