Malaysia to sign FLEGT agreement with EU
MALAYSIA'S timber products will use the "green lane" to the European market next year, in line with the implementation of the European Union's (EU) timber trade legislation, says the EU ambassador Vincent Piket.
Malaysia is undertaking a bilateral voluntary partnership with the EU under its Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action plan to ensure that only licensed and certified timber enter the EU markets.
Malaysian Timber Certification Council chairman Datuk Dr Freezailah Che Yeom said negotiations will come to an end possibly "within this quarter".
"We have made substantial progress and hope to conclude (talks) fairly soon," he told a media briefing after the launch of FLEGT Asia in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Dr Freezailah, who is adviser to the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities on the negotiations with the EU, said the talks involve consultations between over 100 stakeholders, including industry players, the government and non-government organisations.
"Some stakeholders feel that it (FLEGT) is too stringent at this point of time, while others feel it is not stringent enough.
"Malaysia has to strike a delicate balance but nonetheless, we have a strong commitment (to the plan) and where there is a will there is a way," he added.
The "grey" zone is to strike the boundary, between legality and sustainability, he said.
Wood product exports to the EU have risen from RM2 billion to RM3.3 billion in 2006, with the growing trend towards increased sourcing of furniture and joinery products from the far east.
In 2006, the EU imports of Malaysian wood products comprised RM1.2 billion of wood furniture, RM1.1 billion of sawnwood and RM414 million of plywood.
The main European markets are the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France and Italy.
Over the last five years, there has been particularly strong growth in European imports of Malaysian wood furniture, plywood and mouldings. Peninsular Malaysia was the main source of the wood furniture, while Sabah accounted for sawn timber and Sarawak mostly for plywood.
Apart from Malaysia, the EU is also undertaking negotiations with Indonesia. In 2007, these two countries combined, accounted for a total of RM6 billion worth of timber trade with the EU.
The EU now also plans to expand the FLEGT programme to the rest of Asia.
The European Forest Institute, a Finnish-based organisation will expand the FLEGT outreach to other countries from Kuala Lumpur.
The FLEGT Asia programme will be carried out in the Mekong region, in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand.