India, Malaysia to defuse palm row at Davos

The spat between India and Malaysia began with criticism of Indian “anti Muslim” policies, and has now extended to palm oil import restrictions. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 19 January 2020

India, Malaysia to defuse palm row at Davos

KUALA LUMPUR: Trade ministers from India and Malaysia are likely to meet on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos next week amid a palm oil spat, a Malaysian government spokesman told Reuters on Friday.

Hindu-majority India has repeatedly objected to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaking out against its policies which critics say discriminate against Muslims.

Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation, is the second biggest producer and exporter of palm oil and India’s restrictions on the refined variety imposed last week have been seen as retaliation for Mahathir’s criticism.

India’s trade minister, Piyush Goyal, denied on Thursday that the government was trying to hit out at Malaysia in particular.

The row between nevertheless pushed benchmark Malaysian palm futures to its biggest weekly decline in more than 11 years.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Trade ministers likely to meet next week in Davos.

• Both countries want to find a diplomatic solution.

• India palm oil import curbs could hit Malaysia.

No agenda has been set for the proposed meeting between Goyal and his Malaysian counterpart Darell Leiking on Friday, the spokesman for Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry said, adding the request for a meeting had come from India.

An Indian government source said a meeting was likely.

Reuters reported on Thursday that Malaysia did not want to escalate the spat with India by talking of any retaliation for now, after Mahathir’s media adviser called for tighter regulations on Indian expatriates and products, instead wanting to use diplomacy.

A separate Indian government source said it was important for New Delhi and Malaysia to talk.

“We too have a lot to lose in Malaysia, there are 2 million Indian-origin people there,” the source said.

There were a total of 117,733 Indian nationals registered as foreign labor in Malaysia as at June 2019, accounting for nearly 6% of the total foreign workforce in the country. Ethnic Malaysian-Indians are the third-largest community in the Southeast Asian country.

Another reason for frosty ties between the countries is the continued presence of controversial Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik in Malaysia, said one of the sources.

Naik, who faces charges of money laundering and hate speech in India, has lived in Malaysia for more than three years and has permanent residency in the country. He denies the Indian accusations.

The sources declined to be identified as they were not authorized to talk to the media. 


France heading for worst recession since WWII: minister

Updated 06 April 2020

France heading for worst recession since WWII: minister

  • France imposed a nationwide stay-at-home order from March 17 after shuttering all nonessential businesses
  • Statistics office Insee said last month that the lockdown has slashed overall economic activity by 35 percent

PARIS: France is likely to see its deepest recession since the end of World War II this year because of the coronavirus crisis, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned Monday.
“The worst growth figure in France since 1945 was -2.2 percent in 2009, after the financial crisis of 2008. We will probably be very far beyond -2.2 percent” this year, Le Maire told a Senate panel.
“It’s an indication of the amplitude of the economic shock we’re facing,” he said.
France imposed a nationwide stay-at-home order from March 17 after shuttering all nonessential businesses. Officials have said the lockdown will last until at least April 15.
Statistics office Insee said last month that the lockdown has slashed overall economic activity by 35 percent, and estimated every month of shutdown would cut annual GPD by three percentage points.
Services, heavy industry and construction are all taking big hits, Insee said, as factories are shut and only a handful of business sectors, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, remain open.
A wave of French blue-chip companies have abandoned their profitability targets for the year, while employers’ associations have warned that hundreds of smaller firms and shops risk bankruptcy.
The government has pledged 45 billion euros ($49 billion) in loan guarantees and other relief to help companies get through the crisis.

Related