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5 Fév 2021

Urs Geiser, Swissinfo

Switzerland: Voters will have final say on trade deal with Indonesia as concerns over production & imports of palm oil remain

"Indonesia’s palm oil angers Swiss anti-globalisation activists", 29 January 2021

The latest ballot is scheduled for March 7 alongside two other issues.

This is only the second time in 50 years that Swiss voters are having the final say on a free trade agreement. Switzerland is among the first countries in Europe to seek preferential trade relations with the leading economy in south-east Asia.

A free trade accord between Switzerland and Indonesia is aimed at a drastic reduction in tariffs for the Swiss export industry. It is expected to lead to savings of CHF25 million ($28 million) for Swiss companies.

In return, Indonesia will benefit from duty-free market access for industrial products to the Swiss market and is granted concessions on certain agricultural goods -- notably palm oil. Indonesia is the world’s top producer of palm oil.

The agreement includes a series of sustainability standards and requirements to protect the environment and human rights.

Opponents have raised fundamental criticism of globalisation, excessive trade, pollution, consumerism as well as exploitation and human rights violations against the indigenous population in Indonesia.

Concerns about the destruction of the rain forest in south-east Asia were also raised.

Some farmers also fear increasing imports of palm oil could threaten the production of sunflower and rapeseed in Switzerland.

Those in favour argue the trade deal offers potential benefits for Swiss companies in Indonesia – which ranks among the world’s top 16 economies and has been a focus for Swiss cooperation and development.

Supporters also stress the need for legal standards to ensure that Switzerland can keep its competitive advantage over competitors, notably the European Union...