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Wood: China

Volume 459: debated on Monday 30 April 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what procedures are in place to ensure that hardwood products imported from China are not made from timber that has been illegally felled in Indonesia; and if he will make a statement; (134165)

(2) what steps he is taking to ensure that imports of hardwood finished goods to the EU from China have been sourced from sustainable timber in (a) the Far East and (b) other countries.

Currently there is no measure available to the UK to stop forest products being imported on the grounds that some or all of the timber used in their manufacture may not have met the laws of a third country.

However, the Indonesian Government have banned the export of round logs and most categories of rough sawn timber, as a measure to help tackle illegal logging within their borders.

To introduce more effective measures, Indonesia is negotiating a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU. This would allow member states to ban imports of timber directly from Indonesia which have not been licensed by the Indonesian Government as legally harvested. The UK Department for International Development is actively supporting these negotiations. This Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) agreement, as currently proposed, would not stop Indonesian companies from exporting timber to third party countries, such as China, that do not have FLEGT type agreements with Indonesia. While the Indonesian Government have indicated that they intend to require timber exports to all countries to meet the same legality requirements as those specified under the VPA, the potential for circumvention remains a matter of concern. One solution might be the inclusion of an obligation on FLEGT partner countries to report on levels of timber imports and exports and actions taken to prevent circumvention.

The European Commission recently completed a public consultation exercise on options for additional measures. The UK has indicated particular interest in proposals for a new regulation which would make it a crime in a member state, to trade in products which contain or were manufactured from timber that had been illegally harvested, regardless of country of origin. It is important to stress that currently these options are presented in outline; the European Commission has made no formal proposal to the Council of Ministers. A great deal of detailed work must be done to ensure that any future legal instrument represents good and enforceable law.