JAKARTA May 4 Indonesia and the European Union
signed an agreement on Wednesday aimed at ensuring the
sustainability of timber exports and stopping illegal logging in
Southeast Asia's largest economy.
The voluntary agreement signed by Zulkifli Hasan,
Indonesia's minister of forestry and Karel De Gucht, EU trade
commissioner, will track and monitor timber exports, to ensure
they meet Indonesian laws and sustainably standards.
The EU is a key market for Indonesian forest products, with
timber and paper exports worth $1.2 billion each year.
"European traders congratulate the government of Indonesia
and the European Commission on their progress, which will make
it easier for companies to be sure of the legality of products
they buy from Indonesia," Andre De Boer, secretary general for
the European Timber Trade Federation, said in a statement.
The agreement, which followed four years of negotiations,
will affect all Indonesian timber exports, helping the
archipelago attract business from the United States and other
consumer nations that have adopted policies ensuring the
legality of imports.
"This regulation will support our quest for a level playing
field in the market, encouraging buyers to purchase legal and
sustainable timber, and therefore supporting producers who act
responsibly," added De Boer, whose group represents twelve
national timber federations.
Both the EU and Indonesia must now ratify the agreement,
which is expected to take about nine months. For Indonesia, the
real challenge may be enforcement, with corruption rampant.
Indonesia will be the largest timber exporter by far to
enter into such an agreement and the first in Asia. Indonesian
timber and wood product firms include APRIL, Sumalindo Lestari
Jaya and Barito Pacific .
Indonesia is seen as a key player in the fight against
climate change and is under intense international pressure to
curb its deforestation rate, as palm oil, timber and mining
firms seek land to expand.
Norway signed a $1 billion deal last year with Indonesia to
put a two-year ban on forest clearing from 2011 to reduce
greenhouse gases from deforestation, though this has yet to be
signed into law as the government wrangles over the details.
(Reporting by Michael Taylor; Editing by Neil Chatterjee)