PBI-Switzerland notes referendum on free trade deal with Indonesia as Canada launches consultation on similar agreement

Published by Brent Patterson on

Still from Papuan Lives Matter documentary.

Peace Brigades International-Switzerland has posted this article about the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) agreement with Indonesia that was signed on December 16, 2018. The agreement was approved by the Swiss Parliament on December 20, 2019.

The PBI-Switzerland article notes: “On 7 March, the ‘Stop Palm Oil’ referendum will go to the polls. It is opposed to the free trade agreement between Switzerland and Indonesia because it facilitates the import of palm oil.”

Palm oil can be found in lipstick, instant noodles, shampoo, ice cream, chocolate, detergent, soap, cookies and many other products.

PBI-Switzerland highlights: “Human rights defenders on the ground have been drawing attention for many years to the negative consequences of palm oil cultivation for small farmers, indigenous people and the environment.”

Mongabay has reported on the scale of these plantations: “The combined area of oil palm concessions in the Papua region, comprised of the provinces of West Papua and Papua, is 18,099 square kilometers, according to the latest figure from Papua Atlas.”

IWGIA significantly notes that 50 per cent of the 2.7 million inhabitants of West Papua and Papua are Indigenous peoples.

Now, Radio Canada International reports: “The federal government is launching public consultations on the merits of a possible free trade deal with Indonesia, International Trade Minister Mary Ng announced.”

That article adds: “Canadians across the country and abroad are encouraged to participate in the online public consultation process, which will take place until Feb. 23, 2021, Ng said.” Comments can be emailed to Consultations@international.gc.ca or mailed to the Global Affairs Canada address that can be found here.

The Government of Canada has noted: “Indonesia’s top agri-food and seafood exports in 2019 were palm oil, crude palm oil, frozen shrimp and prawns, coffee and palm kernel oil. …Canada was Indonesia’s 40th-largest market for agri-food and seafood products in 2019, representing a 0.4% share.”

Peace Brigades International supports local activists in partnership with the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM).

ELSAM signed this recent Indonesian NGOs Joint Statement that calls on the European Union to prioritize due diligence considerations, support smallholders of palm oil plantations and Indigenous peoples who have backed anti-deforestation policies, as well as recognize the impacts of deforestation on human rights.

ELSAM also produced the 24-minute documentary Papuan Lives Matter with Nalar TV that notes the relationship between the Indonesian government’s investor-friendly policies, the mining, energy and agribusiness sectors, and the criminalization of human rights defenders who oppose the resulting environmental degradation.

PBI-Canada will follow the consultation on a Canada-Indonesia comprehensive economic partnership agreement and amplify Indonesian civil society commentary on it in relation to its potential impacts on human rights and Indigenous land defenders.

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