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Indonesia and Malaysia join forces to defend palm oil against EU ban during Jokowi’s visit

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Indonesian President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, arrived in Malaysia on Wednesday for a two-day working visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. The visit is aimed at enhancing bilateral relations and cooperation between the two neighboring countries, especially on issues related to palm oil, migrant workers and regional security.

Jokowi was received by Foreign Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir and Indonesian Ambassador Hermono at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. He later inspected a guard of honor mounted by the Royal Ranger Regiment. He is scheduled to meet Anwar Ibrahim at Seri Perdana in Putrajaya on Thursday, as well as attend a banquet with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah at Istana Negara.

Jokowi and Anwar are also expected to witness the exchange of several agreements signed by the respective ministry and agency representatives from both countries.

One of the main topics of discussion between the two leaders is the European Union’s new law banning imports of commodities linked to deforestation, which is expected to hurt palm oil exports from Indonesia and Malaysia. The two countries are the world’s top two producers and exporters of palm oil, a commodity used in a wide range of products from food to cosmetics.

Jokowi called for better collaboration with Malaysia to fight what he called “discrimination” against their countries’ palm oil products. He said they need to strengthen their collaboration and not let their commodities be discriminated against in other countries.

 In a joint statement, the two leaders vowed to cooperate closely to address the EU’s “highly detrimental discriminatory measures against palm oil”. They urged the EU to work towards a fair and equitable resolution.

 Indonesia and Malaysia sent a joint mission to Brussels last week with senior government officials meeting with EU leaders to discuss the deforestation law. Malaysia has called the law “unjust” and has said it is working with Indonesia to consider an appropriate response.

Another issue that Jokowi and Anwar are likely to discuss is the protection of migrant workers’ rights. Indonesia is the biggest source of foreign labor for Malaysia, with many Indonesians working in palm oil plantations, manufacturing and service industries. Malaysia has faced a string of allegations in recent years over its treatment of migrant workers, some of whom have been subjected to forced labor, abuse and exploitation.

Jokowi said both countries have agreed to establish a framework on protecting migrant workers’ rights. He said they need to ensure that migrant workers are treated fairly and humanely, and that their welfare and dignity are respected.

Jokowi also visited the Chow Kit market in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, accompanied by Anwar. He drew loud cheers and applause from the crowd, many of whom were Indonesians living and working in Malaysia. Some fans paid tribute to him by singing “Indonesia Raya”, the Indonesian national anthem.

 Jokowi’s visit to Malaysia is his first since he was re-elected for a second term in 2019. It follows Anwar’s official visit to Indonesia in January this year, where they discussed various bilateral and regional issues. The two leaders have expressed their commitment to enhance the strategic partnership between their countries, which share historical, cultural and religious ties, as well as common interests and challenges in Southeast Asia.

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