The social and environmental impact of commodity production in the global south is now governed by an array of global market-driven standard-setting schemes, which interact with state-centred legal and administrative governance ‘on the ground’ in producing countries. Drawing on a case study of contested regulatory governance in the Indonesian palm oil sector, this paper investigates the effects of interactions between (northern) marketbased and (southern) state-centred regulatory authorities. Analysis shows that it is not the collaborative or conflictual character of governance interactions that matters most in shaping regulatory capacity, but rather how such interactions influence the motivations, capacities and legitimacy claims of competing regulatory coalitions within commodity producing jurisdictions. While conflictual pathways of regulatory empowerment can sometimes be productive, their effects on destabilizing power relations between elite and marginalised actors in producing countries render them distinctively vulnerable to legitimacy challenges from incumbent powerholders. This generates dilemmas for global regulators, whose efforts to influence change through strategies of empowering southern pro-regulatory coalitions are subject to challenge from competing coalitions of southern actors. This is an open access article under the CC BY license.