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What are we doing for Asean Economic Community?

It’s the start of 2015. It’s the start of Malaysia taking the lead of Asean. 

At the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, there are dedicated lanes for Asean citizens at the immigration counters. It’s a good sign that Malaysia is walking the talk on freer movement of Asean citizens.

2015 is also the start of the implementation of the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification. 

What are palm oil exporters’ role in the implementation of MSPO? This question is often met with blank stares and the shrugging of shoulders. 

This can be quite disconcerting when palm oil exporters are the workhorse contributing to the bottomline of Malaysia’s economy and gross national income (GNI). 

When it comes to MSPO, not many in the palm oil industry have a clear picture of what each stakeholder’s rights and responsibilities are. 

The key to measuring how well or poorly a sector performs is to look at salient statistics of production and exports. The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), the custodian of the palm oil industry, releases statistics on the 10th of every month. This is good. 

At MPOB’s website, the table of palm oil export destinations are listed down by countries. There is even a specific table just for EU-28. Good job, keep it up.

The strange thing, however, is there is no specific table for Asean10, despite Malaysia taking chairmanship of Asean this year. 

One would expect there be a dedicated compilation of Malaysian palm oil exports within Asean10 in the last five years to prepare for the launch of 2015 single economic market known as the Asean Economic Community (AEC).

It would also be helpful if there is a specific compilation on palm oil consumption on a per capita basis for countries around the world, with a specific table for Asean10.

The 10 governments of southeast Asian countries or Asean actually want to make life easier for the business community as they facilitate the formation of AEC.

It is a great vision. With 600 million people or almost 9 per cent of the world population, an economic size of US$1.8 trillion, and its strategic location between China and India, the AEC is Asia’s third largest economy. People, goods and money can move around with little or no economic barriers.

With great powers entrusted to Kuala Lumpur to lead Asean this year, comes great responsibility to do what is right for 600 million people. 

Here’s a new year resolution for all stakeholders along the palm oil value chain in Malaysia and Indonesia. Ask not what Asean can do for you but what you can do for Asean. Here’s to seeing more talks of collaboration realised into actions that bring about meaningful results.

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