The Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) process in Indonesia is threatened with possible failure at the last hurdle, after a decade of negotiations and hard work by both the Indonesian authorities and representatives of the European Union.
Indonesia was one of the first countries to start negotiating a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU and was the first Asian country to initial a VPA, yet to be implemented.
When the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) got into force in March 2013, under the FLEGT Action Plan, many small furniture producers were created a lot of trouble, as well as for those producers who used composite and various materials. That warning seems to have been well-founded by the events of recent weeks in Indonesia, a country that has received outstanding assistance for capacity building and cooperation.
The Indonesian Minister of Trade has recently re-confirmed that SVLK wouldn’t be necessary for furniture, a thing which will be reversed in the next couple of months. Sources close to the ASEAN Furniture Industries Council (AFIC) stated that the Asian countries have encountered many problems as to comply to the EUTR, while no prosecutions were established in Europe for imports of products deemed illegal.
Since the EUTR got into force, many ENGOs have identified a lot of illegal shipments to the EU. Despite of these actions, four EU-member countries had not even set up monitoring arrangements as they were required. At the moment, there is only one Member State that hasn’t put its house in order and at last two Member States have actually started prosecuting two of their importers, one in the Netherlands over timber from Cameroon, and another one in Sweden over timber from Myanmar that was processed into flooring in Thailand.
There were a lot of Southeast Asian furniture shows taking place this March, among which the IFEX in Jakarta, supported by the furniture association AMKRI, where it was expected that SVLK licenced products would dominate. Even if the Jakarta team organised a public dialogue at the show initially promoted by the organisers, it has been unilaterally cancelled by them at short notice, apparently on the orders of AMKRI, saying that “IFEX 2016 DOES NOT SUPPORT SUSTAINABILITY OF INDONESIAN FORESTS”.
The unilateral cancellation represented a huge disadvantage, as SVLK in Indonesia is under government policy and has been perfected for the past 10 years, with the specific aim of keeping Indonesia’s forests sustainable, and to bolster Indonesia’s timber and wood products’ bargaining position in the global market.
The press release of the company stated that ”We strongly regret that IFEX does not support government policy concerning SVLK assurance, which means that IFEX also does not support protection of sustainability for Indonesia’s precious forests,” and demanded a public apology or face court proceedings.
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