Clarification on European Union policies on PNG’s forestry sector

Letters, Normal

The National, Tuesday 21st August, 2012

AN article entitled “Cash programme will hurt in­dustry, EU initiatives bad for forestry sector”, which was published in The Na­tional on Aug 1, contained plenty of inaccuracies but to address all of them would make for a long and tiresome read.
Instead, the European Union (EU) delegation to PNG wishes to bring clear and accurate information about its policies to readers of The National.
We wish to set the record straight with regard to the approach of the EU’s de­velopment programmes in general, and explain our initiatives to fight illegal logging in general, and how we support PNG’s forest policy agenda in particular.
The EU’s development aid programmes respect the principle of national ownership, and are therefore, subject to extensive stakeholder consultations and formal government approval.
One example is the €6 million programme to be funded under the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA), which aims at providing support to the PNG Forest Authority to establish and maintain a continuous and multipurpose national forest inventory.
The PNG Forest Industry Association, amongst other stakeholders, contri­buted positively to the consultation process during the identification and formulation phases of the GCCA programme.
The programme has also been formally approved by the National Forest Board and PNG Forest Authority.
With regard to Forest, Law Enforcement, Government and Trade (FLEGT), it is worth recalling that the EU’s FLEGT action plan was formulated following the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable De­velopment.
The plan aims to address the growing problem and serious environmental, economic and social consequences of illegal logging and the related trade.
It provides a number of measures to exclude illegal timber from its market, to improve the supply of legal timber, and to increase the demand for sustainable wood products.
A central element of the EU’s strategy to combat illegal logging is the conclusion of trade agreements known as voluntary partnership agreements (VPA).
A VPA is a legally-binding trade agreement between the EU and export country to ensure legal trade of timber and support good forest governance in the timber-producing partner countries.
Several countries in Asia have already either initialled a VPA or have commenced formal negotiation processes.
The EU stands ready to engage, should PNG wish to do the same.
As a second element of the action plan, the EU has adopted legislation to ban illegally-produced wood products from the EU market.
This EU Timber Regulation will come into force on March 3 next year, whereby all importers must ensure that their timber imports are from legal origin.
Although PNG has little direct timber trade with the EU, the regulation may have an indirect impact, as a significant percentage of its timber exports is pro­cessed in third countries and the resulting products subsequently exported to large consumer markets such as the EU.
The EU has presented the new regulation and its potential impact to major stakeholders in PNG on various occasions.
Such a step could also help PNG in ensuring compliance with similar re­quirements pertaining to the US market (Lacey Act) or Australia, which is currently debating an illegal logging prohibition bill 2011.
The article by ITS Glo­bal states that “the incidence of illegal logging in PNG is low”.
This implies that it is in the interest of the PNG forestry industry to ensure that its products are acknowledged as sustainably produced.
It will therefore have nothing to fear from the EU Timber Regulation, or from a possible VPA between the EU and PNG.

EU delegation
Port Moresby