Asean influence will grow when it speaks with one voice: PM Najib


MANILA: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) can wield more influence when it speaks with one voice on issues of concern, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said.

“Asean’s success thus far has been due to the unity and centrality of Asean. When we are a cohesive association and speak with a single voice on any issue, we find that outside powers want to deal with Asean and expand ties with us,” he said.

Speaking to Malaysian media at the end of the 30th Asean Leaders Summit here, Najib said one of the issues he raised during the leaders meeting was the recent European Parliament resolution on tougher measures against palm oil imports.

The resolution links palm oil cultivation to deforestation. It seeks to exclude certifications from Malaysia and Indonesia, which would curb palm oil usage. When enforced in 2020, it would eliminate the use of palm methyl ester in biofuels.

“This would affect the livelihood of 600,000 smallholders in Malaysia and more than 2.4 million smallholders in Indonesia. President Jokowi gave his strong support to a proposal that Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand undertake an effort to address this new threat and try to influence the EU not to enforce this ruling,” the prime minister said.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, meanwhile, said a united Asean could present a strong position in response to the unfair move by the European Parliament.

“If the EU places such conditions and bans our products, Asean can also show its strength and retaliate. From my observation, if this is not resolved it can escalate to a stronger reaction from Asean that impact EU interests in the region. We don’t want to reach that point,” he told reporters later.