Sunday, 26 April 2009

EU And Malaysia In Final Phase Of Timber Trade Talks

April 26, 2009

EU And Malaysia In Final Phase Of Timber Trade Talks

From Tengku Nor Shamsiah Tengku Abdullah

BRUSSELS, April 26 (Bernama) -- The European Union (EU) and Malaysian negotiators are in the midst of finalising the bilateral voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) to promote trade in legally produced and harvested timber.

The agreement will help ensure the sustainability and legality of timber production while improving the perception of tropical timber in Europe.

"We are approaching the last phase of the negotiations. Right now we are doing a tremendous amount of technical work to prepare the text of the agreement. If all goes well, there will be a senior negotiators' meeting in June or July, to resolve possible outstanding issues," said ambassador and head of delegation of the European Commission in Malaysia, Vincent Piket.

"Once that is done, the agreement can be paraphrased and be submitted to the (respective) governments," he told Bernama here.

He said the EU, a significant consumer of timber products, shared the responsibility of tackling illegal logging and related trade with the producing countries.

In order to build the commitment and fight against illegally-logged timber, Piket said the European Commission had taken the initiative to develop its own Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan.

The plan, he said, aimed to eliminate imports of illegally-harvested timber and timber products into the EU and support progress towards sustainable forest management.

According to Piket, "there is time pressure because new legislation will come into force in the EU that will require all importers to give proof of the legality of the timber they want to place on the market".

"The legality requirement will apply to timber and also to timber products such as furniture. And it will be applied 'diagonally', which means if a piece is produced in one country with wood sourced from another country, the legality trace will have to go back to the source country," he said.

Piket said once Malaysia has a FLEGT agreement with the EU, Malaysian timber could be sold in the EU market without further legality requirements.

For this reason, many timber producers in Malaysia have begun to see the FLEGT agreement as a marketing tool which will allow them to boost their sales in the EU market, he said.

"It will also give a quality label to Malaysian timber and raise its reputation in the global market. That is exactly how we see it," he added.

Malaysia's annual timber export to the EU currently stands in the region of RM2.8 billion (600 million euro).

FLEGT is considered a significant economic move since the EU is the third most important destination for Malaysian timber.