Australia to go on opposing laws against palm oil

KUALA LUMPUR: Australia Trade Minister Dr Craig Emerson say his government will continue to oppose any laws that attempt to discriminate palm oil because such a move can spark trade war with Malaysia and Indonesia, the world's biggest suppliers of this food ingredient.

Emerson and his team of government officials were here yesterday to bridge the remaining gaps in the negotiation of a free trade agreement with Malaysia.

Among issues discussed were palm oil labelling effects by Australia Chip Manufacturers and reduction of import duty on palm oil products and vegetable oil.

When asked to comment on Australian government official standpoint with regard to the Australia's Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling - Palm Oil) Bill 2010, first introduced in 2009 and sponsored by independent Senator Nick Xenophon, Emerson replied, "We've all along opposed that private member's Bill. It had since been sitting in the House of Representatives. If that Bill gets reactivated, then our official standpoint is that we would again oppose it."

The controversial Bill called for any products containing palm oil to be labelled. Palm oil is present in over 40 per cent of all packaged foods in Australia, but is usually identified as vegetable oil.

While the proposed Bill did not become law, its negative influence seemed to have taken effect. Last year, Australia's purchase of Malaysian palm oil dropped 7 per cent to 117,104 tonnes from 2010's 125,986 tonnes. In 2009, it bought 126,152 tonnes.

Lately, Xenophon, the man behind the controversial Bill has backtracked in his lobby. He now calls for all foods containing vegetable oils including soyabean and rapeseed to be labelled as well.

In response, Emerson said, "the federal and state governments sees this has taken off as a separate exercise to study the labelling of all oils and sugars in various foods. The advantage of this process is that it's not discriminatory and does not single out palm oil."

Leave a Reply