The Swiss Federal Council has urged voters to support the Indonesia-EFTA Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IE-CEPA) ahead of a national referendum on the trade agreement.

The Federal Council is Switzerland’s highest level of federal government. Its endorsement of the IE-CEPA states that A rejection of this agreement would be a missed opportunity not only for the Swiss export industry, but also for Switzerland, which has the possibility of making an important contribution to supporting the efforts made in the world in favor of production of more sustainable palm oil.

Despite this support from the Swiss Government, some anti-palm oil activists are actively working to oppose the CEPA.

The anti-palm oil campaign is being led by farmer groups and anti-trade politicians who seek to block the CEPA Agreement in a discriminatory attempt to negatively frame palm oil and attack its smallholders who rely on palm oil for their livelihoods.

CEPA Key Facts:

  • The CEPA Agreement ensures that the total volume of palm oil imported into Switzerland will not increase and that Swiss production of rapeseed and sunflower oil will not be threatened.
  • It is also false and irresponsible for anyone to state that the sustainability mechanism in CEPA is not clear and that palm oil is not sustainable. The facts are extremely clear: there are strong sustainability requirements for palm oil and Indonesia will abide by these commitments.
  • Specifically, Indonesia and Switzerland (and other EFTA nations) have committed to the following on vegetable oils:
    • Apply laws that protect biodiversity, primary forests and peatlands
    • Respecting the rights of palm oil small farmers
    • Halt deforestation
    • Support the use of sustainability standards for palm oil
    • Cooperate on improving standards where applicable

#1 Sustainable Palm Oil Choice

The IE-CEPA Deal confirms the commitment to sustainable palm oil that is embodied by Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO).

The Indonesian government and palm oil community are committed to producing 100% sustainable palm oil under the ISPO initiative, the world’s largest sustainability scheme for vegetable oil. ISPO includes requirements on social responsibility, health, safety and employment conditions, as well as protections in place for the environment, natural resources, biodiversity and protected species.

The Swiss Government’s support for the IE-CEPA and its sustainability measures on vegetable oil send a clear message on the future of palm oil in Europe. First, that trade deals must be predicated on liberalizing trade rather than restricting it, and second, that countries must agree on a path to sustainable development. If the European Union and the UK are serious about furthering their presence in ASEAN markets, they should be seeking open trade and a clear consensus on development. Underlying this are four clear principles:

  1. Non-Discrimination Against Indonesia. Indonesia should be given the same treatment within the Due Diligence regulation alongside other exporters.
  2. Non-Discrimination Against Palm Oil. There should not be discrimination targeted at palm oil when compared with ‘like’ products such as soy, rapeseed, sunflower and others.
  3. Level Playing Field for Certification. All existing and recognized standards (including ISPO) should be included without prejudice.
  4. Uphold Indonesian Sovereignty. There should be no imposition on Indonesia’s sovereign right to regulate its domestic palm oil industry, including the future development and evolution of ISPO.