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Clarification on EU-Indonesia timber trade regulations

Letter to the editor written by Julian Wilson, Ambassador and Head of the EU Delegation in Indonesia, published on The Jakarta Post on 9 February.

Following a press conference of the European Union Delegation and the Forestry Ministry on Jan. 22, 2013, many articles have been published in Indonesian media on new regulations being put in place by the EU and Indonesia on legal timber trade. The articulation of these regulations has not always been understood and I would like to provide clarifications on this issue. 

Starting March 2013, the new EU Timber Regulation will apply. This regulation prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber on the EU market and it requires operators placing timber on the EU market to exercise due diligence in order to minimize the risk of illegal timber in the supply chain of the timber or timber product they buy. 

These requirements apply to a wide range of timber products, whatever the country of origin —including EU countries. There are only 2 exceptions: products with a Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) license (issued by countries implementing a bilateral agreement — or VPA — with the EU) or a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) license, both of which are considered by the EU to have been legally harvested.

I would like to confirm that operators placing timber on the EU market from Indonesia with a V-Legal certificate, which indicates compliance with Indonesia's timber legality verification scheme (SVLK) will be subject to the EU Timber Regulation requirements. 

We do not expect there to be any interruption in the export of legal Indonesian timber to the EU: SVLK is a progressive scheme of the government of Indonesia and forestry stakeholders. 

It is widely recognized and the EU views SVLK as providing an excellent element of assurance for operators concerning the legality of their products, in order to be compliant with the EU Timber Regulation. I also note that many of Indonesia's competitors do not have an equivalent system, so SVLK could support Indonesia's position on the EU market, provided SVLK implementation is viewed as credible.

Indonesia and the EU have concluded negotiation of a FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement, which, we expect will be signed in the months to come and ratified by the end of the year. Once the VPA is implemented, Indonesian products with a V-Legal/FLEGT license will be automatically considered legal on the EU market. This will further support EU-Indonesia trade in legal timber.

EU and Indonesian joint efforts on timber legality issues are therefore highly complementary and I am very optimistic about the positive outcomes of our respective regulations on EU-Indonesia timber trade.