KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Mahathir Mohamad today urged Indonesia to join hands with Malaysia to counter a European campaign against the palm oil industry.
“We face the same problem. We must together fight their argument that the palm oil industry is behind deforestation and has a bad impact on climate. This is not true at all,” he said in a joint press conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who welcomed him to the presidential palace in Jakarta today.
Mahathir, who is on his first official visit to an Asean neighbour following his electoral victory last month, accused Europe of clearing out their own forests.
“But nobody raised a protest, and we too did not protest. But now when we need more land (for plantations), they say that it causes pollution.”
He said the European opposition to the palm oil industry was driven more by economic and financial reasons than concerns for the environment.
Malaysia and Indonesia are among the largest exporters of palm oil.
The commodity is Malaysia’s top export to the European Union, representing 49% of the region’s imports.
In January, the European Parliament approved a proposal to ban palm oil in biofuel beginning in 2021, a decision that could affect the millions of oil palm growers in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.