Indonesia, EU, announce historic deal on timber trade

Logging done in a forest close to an Indonesia village in East Aceh.
Logging done in a forest close to an Indonesia village in East Aceh. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesia will in November become the first country in the world to export wood products to the European Union meeting new environmental standards, in a move aimed at bolstering transparency and curbing illicit logging.

Officials from the European Union and Indonesian unveiled measures on Thursday (Sept 15) to ensure timber exports to the trade bloc, valued at roughly US$1 billion a year, are sustainable and harvested within the law.

From mid-November, special licences issued by Jakarta will certify the legality of timber products destined for the EU such as pulp, plywood and furniture.

"Indonesia has achieved great progress in bringing its forest sector under control and improving transparency," Mr Putera Parthama, a senior official from Indonesia's forestry ministry, said in a statement. "We have met the high certification standards of the EU."

This assurance system, developed over years of negotiations, will be independently audited to ensure the timber is legally sourced and meets environmental standards.

Once the agreement takes effect from Nov 15, timber exports from Indonesia that do not carry this certification will be prohibited from trade within the EU.

Consumers in Europe can soon purchase wood products knowing they come from audited factories and forests, EU Ambassador to Indonesia Vincent Guérend said in a statement.

Indonesia supplies the EU with one-third of its tropical wood products, with Germany and the Netherlands the largest importers in the bloc.

Jakarta hopes the pact will help it double timber exports to the EU to the tune of $2 billion a year.

It is the first country to meet these standards but the EU is negotiating similar agreements with 14 other countries, which together provide the continent with 80 percent of its timber imports.

Indonesia is one of the world's largest timber exporters, but the sector is plagued by criminality and corruption, and vast swathes of tropical rainforests have been felled for sale on the black market.