Malaysia to file WTO complaint on EU's palm oil curb by November

FILE PHOTO: A worker unloads palm oil fruits from a lorry inside a palm oil factory in Salak Tinggi, outside Kuala Lumpur August 4, 2014. REUTERS/Samsul Said/File Photo

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia will file a complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) by November to challenge a European Union move to phase out palm oil from being used in transport fuels in the bloc.

“About the WTO, yes we are pursuing it, in fact the documents are with the attorney general chambers now... They are assisting us... (and) helping us identify experts who can argue the case in the WTO,” Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok told reporters after an industry event on Monday.

She added that it would be strategically good for Malaysia to file a joint complaint with Indonesia.

The European Commission had earlier this year decided to phase out palm-based transport fuels in its share of renewable energy after concluding that its cultivation results in excessive deforestation.

This led Malaysia to threaten a WTO challenge to the EU move, while Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the EU risks opening up a trade war with Malaysia over its “grossly unfair” policies aimed at reducing the use of palm oil.

Malaysia is the world’s second-biggest palm oil producer and exporter after Indonesia, and relies on the crop for billions of dollars in foreign exchange earnings and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Palm oil however has been accused by environmental groups of vast deforestation, leading to a loss of biodiversity and climate change.

Reporting by Emily Chow; editing by Christian Schmollinger