As the European Union hosts the EU-ASEAN Leaders’ Summit this week, they should focus on the words and criticisms of the EU’s top foreign policy official, High Representative Josep Borrell.

Speaking at a recent EU Ambassador’s conference in Brussels, Borrell accepted that the EU has behaved poorly towards its developing world partners – especially in its efforts to push unilateral regulations on to developing countries and valuable trade partners like Indonesia.

“We think too much internally and then we try to export our model, but we do not think enough about how the others will perceive this exportation of models…”

Borrell continued by saying the EU must “listen more” and should “have more empathy” when dealing with the rest of the world.

The Indonesian Palm Oil Association – and many stakeholders across Indonesia – agree.

The European Council, Commission and Parliament are currently debating a series of regulatory proposals aimed at blocking market access for Indonesian palm oil.  

If the EU is serious about addressing the concerns laid out by High Representative Borrell, they should reconsider their current hostile approach to palm oil.

Joko Supriyono, Chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) gave the following comment in response to High Representative Borrell’s admission:

“It is important for the Commission and Parliament to heed the words of High Representative Borrell throughout negotiations in the upcoming trilogues for the Deforestation Regulation, Renewable Energy Directive, and Sustainable Aviation Biofuels.

“Indonesia remains committed to supplying the EU with sustainable commodities like palm oil. The EU institutions need to recognize Indonesia as a valued, reliable trade partner and affirm their commitment to pursue cooperation and partnership with Indonesia and our ASEAN neighbors.

“Without this, Borrell’s words are hollow and the EU will further alienate Indonesia.”

Facts about Indonesia – European Union Trade

In case there is any doubt in Brussels about the importance of Indonesia to Europe as a growth export market and its role in the region, here are a few stats:

  • The EU is the third-largest source of imports for Indonesia, after China and the United States; it is also the fifth-largest export destination for Indonesian products.
  • Palm oil is Indonesia’s largest export to the European Union, and it is the country’s – and Southeast Asia’s – largest agricultural export.
  • Despite being Southeast Asia’s largest economy, Indonesia is one of the EU’s smallest export destinations in the region, placing fifth. The EU is seeking to increase its presence in Indonesia for economic and political reasons.
  • Indonesia and the EU’s negotiations for a free trade agreement have stalled because of disagreements over palm oil and sustainability.

Further Reading:

  • European External Action Service, EU Ambassadors Annual Conference 2022: Opening speech by High Representative Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell
  • The HillThe EU’s war on palm oil is about protectionism, not global warmingProfessor Marc L. Busch
  • Kiel Institute for the World EconomyWho benefits really from phasing out palm oil-based biodiesel in the EU?, Ruth Delzeit, Tobias Heimann, Franziska Schünemann, and Mareike Söder
  • Indonesian Palm Oil Facts, Statement by Indonesian Palm Oil Association on European Parliament’s Move to Ban Palm Oil Biofuels, Indonesian Palm Oil Facts