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The US government must revisit unreasonable FGV palm oil import ban

Press Statement by Member of Parliament for Seputeh, Teresa Kok on 5 October 2020:

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is urged to send a dedicated professional team to investigate the alleged practices of forced labour in FGV and should not ban the import of FGV’s products based on a complaint made 5 years ago 

The withhold release order (WRO) issued by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) against palm oil and palm oil products from FGV is most unreasonable as the incident concerned happened in 2015 based on a complaint by an NGO against one of its contractors. Since then, FGV has actively taken various concrete steps to address the complaint(s). FGV has become one of the leading Malaysian public listed agribusiness companies. It has since, duly implemented and continues to vigorously observe best labour practices, in accordance with international standards.

It is indeed astonishing that US CBP had issued the ban on FGV’s products based on an old issue. FGV has taken several steps to correct the then complaints, made against it and has undertaken the necessary remedial steps. All these are well documented and is available for inspection in the public domain.   

A Times article on the United States’ decision to ban import from FGV

FGV has also been continuously implementing a long-term, comprehensive action plan under its affiliation to the Fair Labour Association (FLA). The process comprises a number of initiatives to further strengthen various aspects of its labour practices such the recruitment process and working and living conditions. 

On top of that, FGV has adopted a Supplier Code of Conduct (SCOC), outlining the standards relating to sustainability, safety, health and environment. It also demands strict labour standard to be complied by its suppliers and vendors.  

The question Malaysians wish to ask is, did the US CBP evaluate FGV’s current labour practices when it issued the ban, or has it wilfully acted on an old complaint by NGOs, five years ago? If it is the latter, then it will be most unfair and unconscionable of the US CBP to have acted in this rash manner.

Member of Parliament for Seputeh, Teresa Kok

Palm oil is a very important industry for Malaysia. It is the country’s third major export, and more than half a million smallholders in Malaysia are dependent on it for a living. Sources say that other big oil palm plantation companies in Malaysia might also be on the US CBP ban list.

I would like to urge the US CBP to send a special investigative team to Malaysia to inquire into the labour practices of FGV.  So that its decision won’t be seen or criticised as practising double-standards and victimising companies in third world countries. 

Teresa Kok, 
Member of Parliament for Seputeh, 
Former Minister of Primary Industries of Malaysia.

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