On 7 March 2021, Swiss voters will vote on whether to accept a new trade deal with Indonesia.
The deal agreed by the Swiss and Indonesian governments aims to improve trade with South East Asia’s largest economy by cutting tariffs in both directions.
However, the deal has opponents who have successfully called a referendum against it. They are particularly concerned about reduced import duties on palm oil.
The agreement provides that all Switzerland’s main goods can be exported duty-free to Indonesia, placing Swiss companies on a par with many other foreign competitors. In return, Switzerland has abolished or reduced duties on Indonesian products.
Reduced duty will be applied to a limited amount of palm oil bearing the RSPO sustainability label.
However, those opposed to the deal think it is too soft on palm oil producers and the deforestation will continue.
Scott Poynton, a experienced defender of tropical forests from palm oil in Indonesia said that while he is no great fan of RSPO and believes the concerns around palm oil are valid, he thinks the Indonesian government and the majority of the Indonesian palm oil industry have taken strong steps with good policies and enforcement to reduce deforestation to historical lows. Last year 37,000 hectares of forest were lost across Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia, said Poynton. “I don’t say the problem is over. There is still deforestation happening, especially in West Papua, but the numbers are down big time and if we want them to stay that way, being a partner to the process as opposed to standing outside it and criticising what’s happened in the past, is the way to go in my opinion. We need carrots as well as sticks.”
A majority of the Federal Council, Switzerland’s executive branch, parliament (119 yes, 56 no, 21 abstentions), and the Council of States, Switzerland’s upper house (34 yes, 8 no, 2 abstentions), support the deal.