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Europe Seeks Help in Banning Illegally Timber

Europe is seeking cooperation between Cambodia and other Asian countries as it seeks to eliminate illegal trade in forest products by 2013.

Representatives from 19 countries in Asia and Europe finished two days of talks on timber trade Wednesday, reviewing old policies and highlighting new challenges to fight deforestation, as Western nations seek to tighten restrictions on illegal imports.

The meetings “showed clearly that all participants are determined to strengthen the Europe-Asia partnership…to tackle the challenges posed by illegal logging and trade as well as deforestation,” according to a joint statement between Cambodia and the European Commission.

The countries under the Asian-Europe Meeting say they want to reduce deforestation and promote sustainable forestry management and soil conservation, and to improve “sinks” of carbon dioxide, a global pollutant. Better enforcement of existing forestry laws, good governance and responsible trade can all help make improvements, representatives said.

“All countries agreed that illegal logging is a problem that needs to be addressed,” Timo Makela, director of the office for Sustainable Development and Integration at the European Commission’s General Environment Directorate, told VOA Khmer.

Countries agreed to establish “stronger forestry law enforcement and governance,” he said.

“We from the European Union, as well as our colleagues from the US, have agreed to legislation that will ban the import of illegally harvested timber,” he said, adding that the US already has measures against importing illegally logged timber.

“The legislature of the European Union will be decided on legislation by the end of this year,” he said. After that, those who import illegal timber will be prosecuted, he said.

An estimated 20 percent of forest products in the European market are illegal, valued at millions of dollars, and the EU hopes to start negotiations with Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, to coincide with talks among other Asian nations, to reduce that amount, Makela said.

Cambodia officially stopped the export of timber products in 2001, but watchdogs say illegal logging for export continues.