Swiss NGOs Fail To Stop Palm Oil Import From Indonesia

Zurich – Indonesia’s export of crude palm oil (CPO) to Switzerland can be still proceeding. The referendum on 07  March 2021 showed that 51.7 percent of Swiss people approved the trade agreement between Indonesia and Switzerland, which also rules about CPO trading.

Previously, a number of non-governmental organizations (NGO) in Switzerland had wanted to stop the use of CPO and derivative products in the country through the referendum on trade agreement between the two countries. “With the result of the referendum, then Indonesia and Switzerland will ratify the trade agreement,“ Muliaman Hadad, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Switzerland,  and Liechtenstein told recently.

Muliaman said that if all goes well, the trade agreement will be implemented during the second semester of 2021. “This trade agreement should be soon utilized to increase our exports, investments and other bilateral economic cooperations,“ said Muliaman.

The slight win, with 51.9 percent of voters supporting the trade agreement, had shown that palm oil became the main stumbling block in the referendum. “Despite we’re defeated, we managed to bring up the issue of environment as the main topic of public debate in the referendum,“ said Lukas Strausmann, president of Bruno Manser Foundation, which together with Uniterre and Pro Natura had been trying to block the trade agreement.

The Indonesian government, through its embassy in Bern, has agreed from the very beginning the environmental and social requirement in the trade deal. “We should focus our attention on the implementation of sustainability to win the public trust of Swiss people and strengthen European market confidence over the palm oil,“ said Muliaman Hadad.

The win has obviously elated the supporters of the trade agreement. Swiss economy, which is mostly supported by small and medium scale businesses, will have the potential big market in Indonesia with a total population of 268 million.

A businessman of railroad installation  has even from the beginning disagreed such trade agreement included in the referendum. “It shouldn’t be included in the referendum. But this is Switzerland. All people can directly intervene in the internal political affairs,” said the businessman who refused to be identified.

The Swiss and Indonesian governments signed the bilateral trade agreement in 2018. Then Swiss parliament gave a green light in 2020. But Uniterre, an agricultural NGO based in Waad, West Switzerland, managed to collect signatures to push for a referendum on the trade agreement.

Generally, the supporters of the trade agreement are those of German speaking provinces, while the opponents are those of French speaking provinces, especially those in West Switzerland. (*)

Source: KONTAN.CO.ID | Featured image via palmoilmagazine