Swiss May Back Indonesia Trade Deal Despite Palm Oil Concerns

Swiss voters look set to vote in favor of a trade deal with Indonesia, but could reject a ban on people covering their face in public, a poll for broadcaster SRG showed.

Support for the trade accord was at 52%, according to the poll by gfs.bern before a March 7 ballot. Voters are getting a say on the deal after a campaign by activists because of controversy over palm oil.

Swiss May Back Indonesia Trade Deal Despite Palm Oil Concerns

Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of the oil -- used in everything from chocolate to shampoo -- and the pact would reduce tariffs on imports of certified sustainable production.

The Swiss government argues the agreement would foster sustainable business, but environmentalists, including members of the Green Party, are opposed. They cite concerns that sustainability labels for palm oil aren’t credible and that damaging practices will continue anyway.

Switzerland will also vote on a proposed ban on face coverings. The pollster found opposition to the ban at 47%, but said it was rising and the trend was toward “no,” which typically doesn’t reverse.

The proposal is effectively a crackdown on Islamic full-face veils. Austria and France have already enacted similar laws.

The measure was launched by a group close to the anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party that in 2009 successfully pushed through a national ban on construction of mosque minarets.

Women’s groups and the Social Democratic Party oppose the measure, saying it’s discriminatory.

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