Three EU member states have backed Malaysia in its ongoing dispute over a proposed phase-out of palm oil from EU biodiesel.

France, Spain and Sweden have each said that they opposed a Renewable Energy Directive II (RED) proposal to remove palm oil-based biodiesel from the EU’s list of renewable fuels by 2021, according to various news outlets.

Spain gave its support to Malaysia in a meeting between representatives of Malaysia and Spain, saying that it considered the RED proposal “unfair and against international trade practice”, New Straits Times wrote on 13 February.

“The Spanish government’s stand is that the ban would have devastating impact on the biodiesel industry in Spain and it was not in line with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) free trade law,” said Malaysia’s Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.

At the same time, Spanish palm oil importers had urged the Malaysian government to continue its opposition to the ban and said they were prepared to work together with Malaysia to change the negative perception towards palm oil.

Spain used biodiesel based on 70% palm oil and was the EU’s second largest palm oil importer after the Netherlands, New Straits Times said.

The Swedish ambassador to Malaysia Dag, Juhlin-Dannfelt, said that Sweden opposed the palm oil phase-out, saying that removing palm oil while other plant oils retained their sustainability labels was discriminatory, according to Biofuels Digest.

“Sweden … is against any kind of discrimination. That includes any regime that would be discriminating against other products. [The phaseout plan] has been over-politicised, as well as sidetracked by the EU Parliament when they approved the draft measures,” Juhlin Dannfelt said during the Sweden-Southeast Asia Business Summit 2018.

Similarly, France’s ambassador to Malaysia Frédéric Laplanche said his country was against any kinds of trade distortion that would result from “discriminating measures for individual agricultural commodities”, reported Biofuels Digest on 31 January.

These being the circumstances, France could not support the European Parliament’s plan to ban palm oil biodiesel and would attempt to get the provision removed from the final RED to be negotiated between the Parliament, the European Commission and the EU Council of Ministers, said Laplanche.