Malaysia, US need fair platform to address agri-commodity export issue — ministry

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KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 22): The Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (KPPK) believes that a fair platform is needed for the United States (US) and Malaysia to negotiate to address the allegations and claims that can adversely affect trade activities between both nations.

Its Minister Datuk Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali said the government viewed seriously several incidents involving the detention order imposed on the country’s agri-commodity products exports by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently.

In a statement today, he said on the issue which involved FGV Holdings Bhd, the company had taken appropriate action to improve its foreign workers recruitment system, as well as set suitable standards for workers in line with human rights.

“KPPK was informed that FGV has shown the highest commitment in cancelling the Withhold Release Order (WRO) since the petition was presented,” he explained.

Mohd Khairuddin nevertheless said it could not be denied that the US was an important market for Malaysia’s agri-commodity products, which is among the biggest contributors to the nation’s export revenue.

For the January-August 2020 period, the country’s total exports of agri-commodity was worth RM14.10 billion. 

“However, with such incidents happening more rapidly, KPPK is prepared to consider (taking) the appropriate actions to address the issue,” he said.

In 2018, KPPK with the cooperation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which assumes the role as study technical consultant had implemented a comprehensive study on the labour situation in the plantation sector in Malaysia. 

It was carried out to ensure a more comprehensive study outcome.

The study was tabled and accepted by the Cabinet and will be presented to the US’ Department of Labour as one of the initiatives to remove Malaysia’s oil palm plantation sector from the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorisation Act (TVPRA) which has become the reference to the US CBP in making its decision. 

The ministry hopes the move would be able to avoid the ban on the country’s agri-commodity products in the future.

“The ministry suggests that the oil palm industry including FGV continues to explore new markets taking into account the current COVID-19 pandemic situation by focusing on palm exports to potential countries in the African continent such as Nigeria, Central Asia and others,” he said.

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