Second round of EU - Malaysia timber trade talks in Brussels
On 19 April 2007, the Malaysian delegation (picture) answered questions of European civil society groups in a meeting in Brussels. (Picture: BMF)
A second round of negotiations between the European Union and Malaysia over a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on timber trade issues took place in Brussels last week. The Bruno Manser Fonds participated, together with other NGOs such as FERN (Forest and the European Union Resources Network) and WWF, in a meeting between the Malaysian delegation and European civil society groups on 19 April 2007.
A public record on the talks, which was issued by the EU commission, states that "further work was needed in developing a legality definition which would address all issues linked to the FLEGT process". The FLEGT process (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) aims at ensuring the legality of timber imports to the EU and promises in return privileged market access to the countries which have signed VPAs with the EU. The meeting also agreed on the need „to develop a procedure for stakeholder consultations with broad support amongst the parties involved.“ Further meetings will be held in mid-June and on 11 &12 September 2007 in Malaysia.
One of the most difficult issues to be resolved might be the clash between Native Customary Rights and the Malaysian government’s interpretation of legality. Alone in the East Malaysian State of Sarawak, more than 100 indigenous communities have landright cases pending at the courts, many of which are related to logging. With recent allegations of the Sarawak Chief Minister’s involvement in kickback payments for timber exports, the absence of good governance and transparency in the Malaysian timber sector are of increasing concern.
(24 April 2007)
Public record on VPA negotiations for download: