Progress Has Been Made In Negotiations Of VPA With EU
Malaysia and the European Union (EU) have made progress in talks on the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), said Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Tan Sri Bernard Giluk Dompok.
However, he said, the different forestry laws in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, needed to be ironed out before an agreement could be reached.
The EU and Malaysia started the VPA talks in 2007. The VPA aims to provide the "green lane" for certified timber exports to the EU market in line with the EU Timber Regulation. It will be enforced in March 2013 and will prohibit illegally-harvested timber.
He said the VPA would provide an easier and faster entry into the EU market.
"Without VPA, it will be tough to penetrate the EU market, as there will be checks at the borders," Dompok said at a media briefing here Thursday.
Dompok said he was also looking at the approach whereby states which were ready to sign could be part of VPA but those who were not could come in later, if this was acceptable to the EU.
He said there was also the market issues which might affect the talks.
"Sarawak's timber market is mainly from Japan, while Sabah timber market is from a combination of Japan, EU and elsewhere while the Peninsular market is mainly from EU.
"We are fully aware that there is a growing demand for certified timber products by the more environmentally- and socially-sensitive global markets, as stipulated in many of the public and private sectors' timber procurement policies, particularly in Europe, US, Australia and Japan," he said.
In this context, he said, Malaysia was well-placed to meet such demand as it had initiated the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) in 2001, which was endorsed and acknowledged by the highest international standard, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes.
Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EU to Malaysia, Vincent Piket, said once the EU Timber Regulation was in place, a VPA would make Malaysian timber more competitive in Europe compared to other exporting countries and it would boost the reputation of Malaysian timber.
"The Malaysian Timber Certification Council is at the forefront of tropical forest certification and the MTCS is showcased as a possible model for an Asean-wide scheme," Piket said.
"The EU is a longstanding partner of Malaysia as the buyer of quality timber products," he said.
Malaysia is a major exporter of tropical plywood, veneer and mouldings with the timber sector being one of the largest export earners, registering earnings of RM20.52 billion in 2010, up from RM19.5 billion in 2009.