Balancing Environmental and Socioeconomic Priorities: EU-ASEAN Relations and the Deforestation Regulation

On 2 February 2024, the 2nd meeting of the Ad Hoc Joint Task Force (JTF) on the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), between the EU Commission, Malaysia, and Indonesia took place in Putrajaya, Malaysia. The gathering was organised by the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) and followed the initial meeting held on 4 August, 2023 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Attended by official representatives and stakeholders from key industries affected by the EUDR, such as palm oil, rubber, cocoa, timber, and coffee, the JTF aims to address concerns raised by ASEAN members, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia, regarding the EU’s deforestation regulation. The establishment of the JTF reflects efforts to enhance communication and mitigate tensions between the EU and ASEAN nations.

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Unintended Consequences of Europe’s Fight Against Deforestation

As part of its flagship Green Deal, the European Parliament approved a proposal for a draft regulation on 13 September 2022 which mandates operators to prove that wood, coffee, cocoa, palm oil, cattle, soy, and its derivatives are ‘deforestation-free’ before they enter the EU market. Producing developing countries in Asia and beyond have strongly opposed the EU’s unilateral objectives due to its potential socio-economic consequences. The rather quick passing of the regulation and limited time for consideration of its impact on third countries may actually cause harm to already vulnerable communities.

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