Mahathir's comments, carried in on opinion column for news
agency Bloomberg, follow a move by the EU to phase out palm oil
usage in biofuels. Top growers Indonesia and Malaysia have said
they would file a complaint to the World Trade Organization to
challenge the move.
"A fresh attitude toward palm oil, unencumbered by influential
special-interest groups, could lead to even better trade terms
between the U.K. and the (Southeast Asia) region than it
currently enjoys," Mahathir wrote in a column carried on
Bloomberg's terminals and website.
"We hope to avoid a trade war with Europe," he wrote. "But if
one transpires, that doesn't mean the U.K. has to get caught in
In March, the European Commission had determined that palm oil
cultivation had resulted in excessive deforestation and it
should no longer be considered a renewable transport fuel,
albeit with some exemptions.
While Mahathir acknowledged the importance of environmental
sustainability and deforestation in trade talks, he said, "The
answer is not to single out one commodity and ban it" and called
the EU's move "a form of modern colonialism that has no place in
(Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)
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