PBI-Switzerland raises concerns about palm oil production and the European Free Trade Association CEPA with Indonesia

Published by Brent Patterson on

On February 17, Peace Brigades International-Switzerland posted on its Facebook page about the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the European Free Trade Association and Indonesia. 

PBI-Switzerland notes, “In December 2019, Switzerland approved the free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association EFTA (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Indonesia.”

“This will facilitate the introduction of palm oil in Switzerland. Although sustainability criteria have been incorporated into the agreement, there are no control mechanisms.”

“The rapid expansion of oil palm plantations poses a major threat to the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia and its flora and fauna. It also violates the human rights of the local population, who are deprived of their arable land and livelihoods.”

“PBI-accompanied human rights activists in Papua are also fighting against human rights violations as a result of palm oil growing.”

“This is why an alliance launched the referendum in January 2020 It is supported by various organizations, unions and political parties.”

The referendum period expires on April 9, 2020.

PBI-Switzerland adds, “You can find more information about the referendum and the signature sheet here.” Among the points raised on that webpage:

“World trade has driven environmental degradation. In view of the climate crisis, goods transport must be restricted. Free trade has not increased prosperity or quality of life in most countries and serves the economic interests of multinational corporations only.”

“As in all free trade agreements, there are no effective control mechanisms, sanctioning options and binding obligations. Violations of human and labor rights, climate and environmental protection are no exception, but the rule.”

In June 2014, The Globe and Mail reported, “[The Tim Hortons coffee chain] is being targeted by environmentalists who want it to stop making its doughnuts with cooking oil bought from suppliers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea that destroy the habitat of endangered animals to plant palm trees.”

By September 2014, Tim Hortons announced, “Tim Hortons will source 100% of the palm oil we book in 2015 from sources verified as supporting sustainable production.”

In November 2014, Forest Heroes commented, “There’s no mention of timelines or an implementation plan, and it lacks some significant details about the sourcing requirements — but it’s a huge step in the right direction.”

Global Affairs Canada has noted, “In 2018, Canada’s total bilateral merchandise trade with Papua New Guinea was $32.3 million, with $27 million in exports and $5.3 million in imports. Main Canadian exports to PNG included machinery and vehicles, while imports included coffee and spices.” It has also noted, “Indonesia is the second-largest destination for Canadian direct investment in Southeast Asia, at a total stock of $3.2B in 2018.”

In 2018, two Peace Brigades International-Indonesia Project staff provided training and support to emerging human rights defenders in partnership with the Indonesian human rights organization, Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM).

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