Tuesday, 18 August 2009

EU Hopes To Sign Timber Trade Agreement With Malaysia By Year End

August 18, 2009

By Tengku Noor Shamsiah Tengku Abdullah

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 18 (Bernama) -- The European Union (EU) hopes to sign a bilateral Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with Malaysia, by year-end, to promote the 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.

Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Commission (EC) in Malaysia Vincent Piket said the EU, a significant consumer of timber products, shared the responsibility of tackling illegal logging and related trade with producer countries.

"Both the EU and Malaysian negotiators are in the midst of finalising the agreement and we hope to sign the agreement by year-end," he said.

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

"The plan aims to eliminate imports of illegally-harvested timber and timber products into the EU and support progress towards sustainable forest management," he told Bernama here today.

Piket added, "If we can resolve outstanding issues, then the agreement should be ready by end 2009."

He said if the accord can be concluded, Malaysia would become the first country in Asia to have such an agreement with the EU and the benefits would be two-fold.

"A lot of technical work, involving detailed assessment of the legal system in Malaysia, will have to be done, he said, adding that a mechanism to promote the sustainable use of Malaysia's forests must be established first.

This in turn would contribute to the fight against climate change, he added.

Under the agreement, Piket said Malaysian timber exporters would be in an advantagous position following increased confidence in the EU market.

He explained that in the near future, the EU would put in place safeguards against the import of illegally harvested timber as consumers rejected it.

Piket said the FLEGT label would allow better access for Malaysian timber into the EU market as exporters need not prove the sustainability and legality of their wood.

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

"This is an important advantage for the timber trade," Piket said.

Malaysia's annual timber exports to the EU was in the region of RM2.8 billion.