All about the Malaysia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement

Forests cover almost 60% of Malaysia’s land area, equivalent to 18.48 million hectares. Timber is an important export product and a significant contributor to the country’s economy. Between 1990 and 2000, forestry and timber contributed 6 to 7% of the country’s annual GDP. However, this contribution fell to 2 to 3% between 2001 and 2015. The range of Malaysia’s timber and timber products, from primary to tertiary products (logs, sawn timber, plywood, medium density fibreboard, chipboard, veneer and other panel products, mouldings, builders’ carpentry and joinery, and furniture) is unsurpassed.  

The EU is one of Malaysia’s top three export markets (10.1%) in terms of value (in 2018) for timber products. The country also has many regional timber trading partners, the main importers being India and Japan. More than half of Malaysia’s export markets are in Asia (61.9%). The other Asian markets are China, Chinese Taipei, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. The United States takes up 20.1% of its timber exports.

Malaysia was one of the first countries to begin negotiating a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU, in 2007. The Malaysia-EU VPA negotiations are the most protracted VPA negotiations to date, partially due to the complexity of Malaysia’s political situation. The country consists of three regions, Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak (the latter two in Borneo). These regions are often treated separately as they have distinctly separate laws and histories. The pluralistic nature of the Malaysian legal system, and the fact that land and forest regulations are decentralised to the state levels (11 states in Peninsular Malaysia plus Sabah and Sarawak), makes for the complexity.   

Eleven negotiation meetings (Technical Working Group meetings) and six Joint Experts’ Meetings took place between 2007 and 2014. However, negotiations have been in limbo since late 2014, while the EU awaits a signal from Malaysia that it is ready to restart the negotiations with the inclusion of the state of Sarawak.

VPA status

Related links 

All about what is a VPA and how it is structured.

All about what FLEGT licences are and how they can benefit businesses in the EU as well as timber producers in countries outside the EU. is a one-stop centre where members can access and share news, research, training materials and many other resources.

Navigate the map to find out about past and ongoing FLEGT projects around the world.

The knowledge sharing platform for development cooperation of the European Commission where you can share, learn and collaborate with development professionals.

All about the EU Timber Regulation that aims to reduce illegal logging by ensuring that no illegal timber or timber products can be sold in the EU.