Rupa Damodaran, New Straits Times
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia can still stop Australia from passing a law that will discriminate palm oil, said an Australia-based world trade expert, who feels the move goes against Australian policy.
“If the Malaysian government gave the Australian government incentive enough to resist the measure and explained to the state governments of Australia why the proposal was misinformed, the Greens campaign could be defeated,” says Alan Oxley who is a former chairman of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt).
Gatt was the predecessor to the World Trade Organisation.
The Australian Senate passed the Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling – Palm Oil) Bill 2010 on Thursday. If made law, products with palm oil must be labelled to say it has the commodity as an ingredient.
Malaysia views this as discriminatory as competing vegetable oils do not have to do the same.
To become law, the Bill has to be adopted in the House of Representatives where the government rules only with the support of four independent lawmakers.
The Greens Party, which supports and has strong political influence on the minority government, wants the Bill passed to enable products containing palm oil to be singled out for attack.
Oxley, in an email interview, said the proposal is contrary to standing Austra-lian policy.
“Until now, the position of Australian federal and state governments is that compulsory food labelling should primarily serve to protect human health and safety, not support environmental campaigns. This is also the position of Australian manufacturers of consumer goods.”
He feels that it has been an issue that has been “manufactured” by the Green groups, which have been persuading schoolchildren visiting zoos to save tropical forests and the Orang Utan species.
“Malaysia should aim to defeat this measure in Australia for the same reason the Greens want it to succeed. Defeating it will send a signal to other markets that the anti-palm oil campaign is not credible.”