Jakarta. Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to unite against negative campaigns on palm oil production during a meeting between President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Prime Minister Najib Razak in Kuching, Malaysia on Wednesday (22/11), where they also discussed opportunities to strengthen bilateral cooperation across various areas.
"We must unite against the negative campaign on palm oil," Jokowi said, as quoted in a statement issued by the Cabinet Secretariat.
Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s top palm oil producers, accounting for about 85 percent of global output.
The Southeast Asian countries have been actively countering a resolution adopted by the European Parliament earlier this year on palm oil and deforestation.
In a joint statement, Jokowi and Najib reiterated their shared view that the resolution "discriminates palm oil" and said that any measures from it would be seen as "unfair practices to trade" that will "affect the livelihood of millions" in both countries.
Around 17 million Indonesians are employed in the domestic palm oil sector.
The leaders also emphasized that measures aimed at restricting market access for palm oil would work against the United Nations 2030 Agenda of eradicating poverty and raising income levels.
As part of the 12th Indonesia-Malaysia annual consultation, the two leaders also discussed efforts to strengthen economic cooperation, protect Indonesians, border issues and defense and security issues.
Jokowi expressed hope that Malaysia will allocate 20 percent of its annual import quota on purchasing Indonesian rice, which would amount to about 150,000 tons.
Indonesia has exported around 25,000 tons of rice to Malaysia since October.
According to a statement released by the prime minister’s office, both leaders agreed to reopen trade on the Malaysian side of the Entikong-Tebedu border in Sarawak, and in another two places in Sabah on the island of Borneo.
"An agreement on reopening trade at the border will have to be made soon as it will benefit the people of the two countries, besides developing the area in an integrated manner in the area of high-value agricultural products or other fields as well as the creation of free trade zones and small and medium enterprises," Najib said, as quoted in the statement.
Trade between Indonesia and Malaysia saw an increase of more than 21 percent in the first half of 2017.
"Indonesia hopes that with the conclusion of negotiations on the Border Crossing Agreement, the document will soon be signed. The same applies to our Border Trade Agreement," Jokowi said.
Indonesia and Malaysia also agreed to increase the number of joint border posts, which will be discussed further by the countries' respective defense ministers.
Furthermore, the neighbors have agreed to release all fishermen detained for trespassing in each other’s waters.
"We realize that these fishermen are poor and it is unjust of us to shut out their source of livelihood," Najib said at the joint press conference.
During the meeting, Jokowi also requested that Malaysia approve the establishment of more education centers for the children of Indonesian migrant workers.