Trade War is not a Solution to Face “Negative Campaigns” against Indonesian Palm Oil Products

Press Release

Trade War is not a Solution to Face “Negative Campaigns” against Indonesian Palm Oil Products

The Ministry of Trade, Enggartiasto Lukita, asked for the Vice President’s permission to take retaliatory action against the European Union.  He threatens that Indonesia can stop buying Airbus airplanes made by Europe and Boeing (made by the United States).  The US is also imposing high tax for CPO imports from Indonesia (Republika, 10 April 2018).

ELSAM thinks that the Government of Indonesia, as stated by the Minister of Trade, is overreacting in responding the EU Parliament’s Resolution related to the ban of the use of palm oil as biofuels starting from 2021.  The government action that states to boycott Airbus airplanes and threaten to stop fish imports from Norway is a mistake.  The Government is too defensive in responding the issues campaigned by global civil society related to Indonesia’s palm oil products.  This is because even though the EU Parliament’s Resolution was agreed, the process of developing such policy is still long and not final.  There are three main institutions in the legislative process of the EU, which are the EU Parliament, the EU Council, and the EU Commission.  Therefore, the policy related to the resolution might not necessarily be approved by the other two institutions, and there might also be further changes of the document.

Other than that, as stated in the press release of the Representative of the EU in Indonesia, “The European Parliament has not voted in favour of a ban of palm oil based biodiesel. Instead it has voted in favour of excluding biofuels produced from palm oil from being counted towards the EU Renewable Energy targets. This would by no means limit the amount of biofuels from palm oil that can be produced or imported and consumed in the EU.”  In other words, the government of Indonesia should convince the European Union to include palm oil as part of the measurement for the EU’s Renewable Energy targets, instead of boycotting the products from the EU.

Rather than improving the palm oil plantations’ conditions in Indonesia, the government focus on expanding the palm oil plantations to increase their productivities.  Not only expanding the palm oil plantations in Indonesia, but also to countries in Africa, such as Nigeria and Madagascar.  These steps do not respond the “negative” campaigns that “attack” the Indonesian government, instead it will trigger more pressure from the international community to push for improvements for the palm oil plantations’ conditions in Indonesia.

The attitude taken by the Minister of Trade shows that there is no consolidation between the ministries/institutions related to palm oil in Indonesia, whereas palm oil is a national interest.  If there is global pressure towards our national interest, the government should not “strike” back without reflecting the real conditions in the field.  Palm oil is Indonesia’s national interest, and should be taken into more serious concerns by the government so that the Indonesian society can also benefit as a whole from the large area of palm oil plantations in Indonesia, not only for a few corporates’ interests.

Related to the above statements, ELSAM recommends:

  1. President Jokowi to use diplomacy and persuasive approach in responding the EU’s Resolution. President Jokowi and the Ministries to communicate intensively with the EU Parliament and EU countries’ governments to receive more information on the background of the resolution and its implications towards diplomacy and economic cooperation between Indonesia-European Union;
  2. President Jokowi to assign the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and other ministries/institutions to take active steps in improving the conditions of palm oil plantations in Indonesia so that the products can be sustainable and human rights friendly;
  3. President Jokowi to ensure consolidation between ministries/institutions in responding issues related to palm oil. Therefore, the statements of the government of Indonesia can be one and represents the formal attitude of the overall government of Indonesia; instead of different response between the ministries/institutions.

Jakarta, 12 April 2018,

The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM)

Wahyu Wagiman, S.H., M.H.

Executive Director


Andi Muttaqien (Deputy Director of Human Rights Advocacy)  (08121996984)

Kania Mezariani (Staff of Human Rights Advocacy)                     (087882337180)


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