New EU Law to Curb Illegal Wood Imports

European Union legislation to end illegal wood imports to Europe from Cambodia and other countries is expected to be approved as early as this month and to come into effect in 2013, EU officials said yesterday in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia is not a major supplier of wood to the EU, but does export to countries like Vietnam that have a high volume of timber trade with Europe, according to information presented at a seminar yesterday, which did not include exact figures on EU-Cambodia timber trade. The new legislation targets both wood from abroad and from within the EU, which supplies more than 90 percent of its own timber.

“The EU timber regulation is a pragmatic illustration of the importance the European Union attaches to environment preservation and more generally sustainable development when it comes to trade relations,” said Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d’affaires of the EU delegation to Cambodia.

Under the new legislation, licenses obtained as a result of deals between the EU and timber-producing countries would be considered proof of legality. Known as voluntary partnership agreements, or VPAs, such deals are already being negotiated with Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, but not yet with Cambodia.

“If you have a VPA, then the country guarantees that whatever they export is…legal, and they have free access [to] the European market,” said Vincent van den Berk, coordinator of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade regional program in Asia.

Cambodia exported close to $70 million in timber products in 2008, mostly sawn wood, according to a presentation yesterday by To Xuan Phuc, a researcher for the US-based Forest Trends. The bulk of that went to Vietnam, with most of the rest going to China and Thailand, he said.

Chea Sam Ang, deputy director of the Agriculture Ministry’s forestry administration, said via telephone after attending yesterday’s seminar that the government “has measures to crack down on illegal timber trafficking” and “supports legal wood exports.”

“We still have not seen the text of the EU legislation but we think that it is the same concept as in our country,” he said.

    (Additional reporting by Khy Sovuthy)


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