Malaysia-UK arms deal in peril: claim

The European Union’s proposed ban on palm oil could endanger a possible US$6.3 billion defence deal between Malaysia and the UK, the anti-EU British press has reported. 

The right-wing Sun on Sunday newspaper claimed the proposed deals were being jeopardised by the possible prohibition against imports of palm oil voted on by the European Parliament last month.

The proposal said edible oils should not be considered a source of renewable energy by 2025 and moved to eliminate the contribution of palm oil to biofuels and bio-liquids by 2021.

Much of the environmentally devastating product sold to Europe is used as a biofuel.

Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper claimed France, which was hoping to sell its Rafale fighter aircraft to Malaysia, was promising to oppose the EU ban to displace the British arms industry.

The partisan newspaper that makes an unreliable news source said that UK environment minister Michael Gove supported the ban on palm oil while defence boss Gavin Williamson had been campaigning for more support for arms-industry jobs.

The order was reportedly worth around 20,000 jobs.

According to the WWF, every hour an area of rainforest the size of 300 football fields is cleared for palm oil to be grown on.

A third of all Indonesian mammal species are now estimated to be critically endangered as a result of deforestation, largely for palm oil.

Malaysian commodities minister Mah Siew Keong is reportedly scheduled to travel to the UK this week to demand London’s support against the proposed ban.

Mah has threatened to cease all trade with the EU.

He said recently: “If these hate campaigns and discriminatory policy against palm oil were to go on, we can also retaliate. Don’t expect us to continue buying European products.”

EU action has to be agreed by parliamentarians, the European Council, representing member states, and European Commission, which is the bloc’s executive branch.

Sweden is reportedly poised to oppose the resolution.

Thailand says it will join Malaysia and Indonesia in rejecting any trade bans against palm oil.

The kingdom is the third-largest producer of palm oil, with an estimated production of almost 2.5 million tonnes last year.

Mah said Thailand’s response showed the solidarity of palm-oil producers in fighting EU “prejudice and oppression”.

Malaysia says it is defending 3 million Asean palm-oil smallholders.

But Malaysia’s trade and industry minister Mustapa Mohamed has rowed back from Mah’s stance, saying a total EU trade ban would cause a massive disruption to the economy.

“However, we are taking this matter seriously, as we view this as a discrimination towards palm oil,” he said in Kuala Lumpur.

“The government has already issued several statements, but we are not there yet to cut total ties with the EU. There was a time when we can be an island, but we cannot afford to become a standalone nation anymore, especially with the current global climate,” Mohamed added.

He said 200 EU-based companies had a strong presence in Malaysia.


Malaysia is investing heavily in its military. Picture credit: Wikimedia