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Global North turns against deforestation regulation

What do a bipartisan group of Republican and Democrat U.S. Senators, 20 EU Agriculture Ministers, and Europe’s largest farming organisations all have in common? All are warning of the dangers of the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), if it is not delayed or amended, claim Malaysian Palm Oil.
 
Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri described EUDR as fundamentally unfair in a letter to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, and highlighted that “countless farmers will be disqualified from the European market through no fault of their own.
 
Twenty-seven other US Senators also wrote to USTR Tai, led by Marsha Blackburn (Republican) and Angus King (Independent). The letter is signed, among many others, by senior Democrats Raphael Warnock, Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar and their Republican colleagues Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, and Tim Scott. Their joint letter highlights that the EUDR traceability requirement will be nearly impossible” and the Regulation as a whole “presents significant compliance issues due to its stringency and ambiguity.
 
Reporting about politics in the United States seems to focus on partisan division and strife – and yet the problems caused by EUDR have united Republicans, Democrats and Independents in the understanding that this legislation in its current form, and on its current timetable, is unfair and unworkable. Delayed implementation surely is the only sensible option.
 
This is a view shared by the EU’s own Ministers for Agriculture. Twenty of the twenty-seven Ministers called for EUDR to be delayed, at a recent meeting of the AGRIFISH Council. Led by Austria’s Agriculture Minister Norbert Totschnig, the Ministers urged the “Commission for a temporary suspension of the regulation allowing for a feasible implementation accompanied by a revision of the regulation.”
 
Across the Global North, the realisation is dawning of the potential problems for supply chains, prices, and consumer choice – as well as the impact on farmers and exporting countries. Food and commodity producers are joining political leaders in calling for a more measured and reasonable approach.
 
The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) said that EUDR in its current form – poses significant concerns for our country. The rule presents severe compliance challenges, would disrupt sustainable supply chains, and imposes unwarranted and costly requirements for doing business with the E.U.”
 
The EU’s primary farming association, Copa Cogeca, was even more direct. The organisation states that It will therefore not be possible to implement the EUDR in practice. Furthermore, it is not foreseeable that adequate framework conditions will be finalised sufficiently in advance of the deadline for implementation.”
 
This wave of concern and criticism – and calls for an urgent delay – from American and European leaders comes after developing nations including IndiaBrazil, and many others had raised their own serious concerns about the demands and implementation timetable for EUDR.
 
Malaysia has been raising such concerns, supported by clear evidence and data, for over a year. The CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), Ms Belvinder Kaur Sron, encapsulated the concerns, explaining that “The EUDR forces Malaysian small farmers to implement unrealistic requirements, including costly trace-ability and technology. If these new rules are enforced, thousands of Malaysian small farmers will likely be cut out of supply chains. Livelihoods are at risk.”
 
These leaders of the Global North and the Global South are right. A delay is required, and it is reasonable. Both the New York Times and the Financial Times have highlighted this reality.
 
Malaysia is already best-in-class for sustainable palm oil: there is no question about whether or not Malaysian companies have the ability to meet EUDR on a fair timetable. The Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) standard provides legal assurances  and no-deforestation commitments. European customers know that Malaysia does not deforest, as confirmed by the United Nations FAO and the World Resources Institute.
 
It is worth returning to the comments of Senator Hawley: “countless farmers will be disqualified from the European market through no fault of their own.” This statement is as true for Malaysia as it is for Missouri. The Global South and the Global North – businesses and governments alike – are calling for a delay. Only the ideologues, most of which receive funding from European governments, are left to lobby for the EUDR.
 
The EU Commission now has a choice: the first option is to accept the reasonable requests for a delay from trading partners, governments, and the EU’s own farmers. This delay would naturally prompt a serious rethink of the implantation plans and processes. Alternatively, it could press ahead and watch EU consumers suffer higher prices and more disruption, watch countless trading partners weigh their considerable options for a response – and watch as who knows how many livelihoods all across the world are damaged – simply to please the Brussels-based Green lobby.

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