Thursday, 3 September 2009

US introduces new approach to combat illegal wood trade

Benget Besalicto Tnb., The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Thu, 09/03/2009

The United States has been intensifying regional dialogue with a number of Asia's wood exporting countries, including Indonesia, in an effort to combat illegal logging. Part of this dialogue took place in Jakarta on Wednesday, mainly to introduce new provisions under the recently amended US Lacey Act regulating the import and export of food products to and from the US.

The regional dialogue was attended by representatives of the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Australia.

Assistant to US Trade Representative (USTR), Mark Linscott, who headed a US delegation, told the press here that any US citizen importing or exporting illegally harvested plants or products to and from the US may be prosecuted under the Lacey Act.

Offenders may be prosecuted through either civil or criminal enforcement actions. Regardless of any prosecution, the illegal items or forest products may be seized and confiscated.

Analysts have long suspected that a large part of Indonesian timber and wood products have been illegally traded through Malaysia and China, before ending up in export markets such as the EU and the US.

Such practices would no longer be possible for exports to the US as the Lacey Act now requires traders to trace the origins of forest products.

The US law also requires importers to file a declaration upon importation that states the value of the importation, the volume of the consignment, and the scientific name of the forest product.

The EU, on the other hand, is promoting and requiring Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) to be implemented between EU states and their trade partners.

Some experts say that the VPA system is not as strict as the Lacey Act since, for example, it does not require the tracing of forest products' origins, which makes it possible for traders from Malaysia and China to export forest products that are not indigenous to the two countries.

"With Indonesia we have been meeting for several times and we have set up a working group *on the use of legal timber*. We're pursuing such bilateral meetings with other countries,' Linscott said.

This dialogue to promote the use of legal forest products, he said, will be expanded next year to include countries like China, Thailand, the Philippines, and New Zealand.

Hadi Daryanto, the director general of forest production development at the ministry of forestry said Indonesia had applied since Sept. 1 a new system called the Verification System of Timber Legality (SVLK) as part of its response to growing awareness on sustainable principles to be applied to the international market.

Hadi said that the new system will be more reliable as it will be supervised by an agency called the Institution of Independent Evaluators and Verifiers (LPVI), which will be independent, more credible and professional.

"The new system requires that all wood companies will have to have the *required* legal documents before they are allowed to sell their products to the domestic and international markets," he said.