Timber suppliers and exporters were urged yesterday to prepare for the new European Union timber regulation that will come into force at the end of this year.
"The EU timber regulation is a pragmatic illustration of the importance the EU attaches to environment preservation and more generally sustainable develŽopment when it comes to trade relations," EU Ambassador David Lipman told a conference.
Timber and timber products are one of the key export categories of Thailand, with about Bt10 billion worth shipped to the EU last year.
The new regulation does not differentiate between imported and domestically produced timber in Europe, Lipman said.
"Both are equally required to demonstrate legality. It is timely for all Thai stakeholders of the forŽest/timber chain to anticipate and adapt to the market changes that are triggered by consumers' demands and evolving legislation, at the EU level and also in other markets."
The conference was organised by the Thai mission to the EU, Delegation of the European Union to Thailand and Forestry Department to improve underŽstanding of the Thai business comŽmunity and stakeholders of the EU's Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) approach.
It also offered reflections of the types of assistance the EU is ready to offer in order to help Thailand prepare for this new legislation.
The new legislation will ban the supply of illegal timber and timber products, with anticipation to end sales of such wood or wooden products to the EU market as of early 2013.
It is the latest measure of the EU FLEGT Action Plan, which was adopted in 2003. Until now, the cornerstones of the FLEGT Action Plan have been the voluntary partŽnership agreements (VPAs) between the EU and timber proŽducing countries to stop illegal logging.
Under the new timber regulaŽtion, FLEGT licences, obtained as a result of VPA implementation, will be considered proof of legality. FLEGT licensed timber will be exempt from the administrative requirements imposed by the new regulation. In Asia, the EU is negotiating VPAs with Malaysia, Indonesia and soon Vietnam.
Ambassador Pisan Manawapat, head of the Thai mission to the EU in Brussels, said Thailand has some two years left to act in comŽpliance with this new regulation.
"Thai entrepreneurs and stakeŽholders from both public and priŽvate sectors cannot ignore this and wait until it is too late.
However difficult it may be, we have to work together if Thailand will like to secure our stakes and increase the market share of Thai timber and timber products exported to the EU.
Complying with this new EU regulation also means improving our standards for other markets in the world, and it is for a better and more environmentally friendly quality of life for Thais in Thailand," he said.
"In doing business with the EU, we have to act quickly and systematically, so that we will win over other competitors, making Thailand an international player to trade with the EU with confidence and sustainability for our people and our planet," he said.
In the last couple of years, the EU has launched environmental regulations ranging from fighting climate change to fighting illegal fishing.
This reflects the seriousness of the EU in protecting the environŽment as well as in increasing green and environmentallyfriendly trends and demands in doing business and trade from civil societies and consumers in Europe, he added.