Deputy Foreign Minister Mahendra Siregar, center, seen during the 15th Indonesian Palm Oil Conference in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Gapki)

Indonesia Focusing Its Diplomatic Efforts on Palm Oil, Deputy Foreign Minister Says


NOVEMBER 02, 2019

Nusa Dua. Deputy Foreign Minister Mahendra Siregar said Indonesia is focusing its diplomatic efforts on firmly countering negative campaigns and discrimination against its palm oil exports.

"Palm oil should have a prominent place on the agenda of any bilateral regional free-trade agreement, multilateral discussion, negotiation and agreement... The negative narrative against palm oil mainly emanating from Europe should be addressed and ring-fenced," Mahendra said in his keynote address at the 15th Indonesian Palm Oil Conference in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Friday.

He said Indonesia would look at markets other than the European Union, which has been using allegations of negative health and environmental impacts in its campaign against palm oil.

"Developing countries need palm oil most, because of their growing economies. We should be looking at this market, instead of supplying the European market, as their economies are entering a sunset condition," Mahendra said.

"We should approach China and South Asian countries – such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – with mutually beneficial bilateral agreements," he added.

Indonesia will file a lawsuit against the European Union at the World Trade Organization over its negative campaign against palm oil.

"As a member of the WTO, it is within our rights to sue those who are unfair in their trade with Indonesia. The United States with its biofuel export discrimination, European Union with its Red II; we don't need to think twice about reacting [to this]," Mahendra said.

He said Indonesia was currently the biggest palm oil consumer and that the country would focus on domestic consumption and bolstering palm oil downstreaming.

"Our consumption is now 13 million tons and it will continue to increase; no one will have a larger market than us. In five to 10 years, we will export downstream goods." Mahendra said.

Indonesia seeks to produce palm oil-based products for use in foodstuffs, cosmetics, biofuel and aviation fuel.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo appointed Mahendra as deputy foreign minister with a special instruction to increase palm oil exports to $25 billion, combat negative campaigns against the commodity, and promote sustainability in the industry.

As Mahendra also remains in his post as Indonesia's ambassador to the United States, he received a specific instruction from the president to increase bilateral trade between the two countries to $25 billion, from $10 billion currently, over the next two to five years. 

Mahendra previously served as deputy trade minister and deputy finance minister.