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Major Countries Seek Proper Forest Trade

Representatives of sixteen countries from the EU and Asia met Tuesday in a bid to improve regional forestry protection and promote timber trade between Asia and Europe.

“Forest products, timber products, contribute a very important and large share of the plate between the Asian region and the European Union,” said Timo Makela, director of the office for Sustainable Development and Integration at the European Commission’s General Environment Directorate. “So timber products, forest products, they are important for our economy.”

The Food and Agricultural Organization estimated in 2001 that the total value of word trade in forest products had reached $140 billion, linking Asian, North American and European markets. But a World Bank report on illegal logging in 2006 said annual global losses from illegal cutting were more than $10 billion, more than eight times the development assistance for sustainable forestry management.

Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun said Tuesday Cambodia and other countries “will be able to establish a work plan to improve forest governance and law enforcement and reduce the illegal trade in forest products.”

Cambodia once exported its forestry products to foreign markets like the now defunct Soviet Union, but it banned such exports in 2001, according to Chheng Kim Sun, the new director of Cambodia’s forestry administration, under the Ministry of Agriculture.

Cambodia still faces an illegal logging trade, he said, especially to Vietnam and China.

Chheng Kim Sun replaced Ty Sokhun, who was publicly fired in April after Prime Minister Hun Sen said he wasn’t doing enough to combat the crime.

Cambodia has meanwhile been engaged on a crackdown, seizing more than 6,000 cubic meters of wood and charging more than 100 people for crimes, Chheng Kim Sun said.

The EU’s Makela said good governance helps eliminate illegal forestry, which protects against deforestation.

Tuesday was the opening of two days of forestry meetings and drew representatives from Burma, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.