Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan, European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik, and Environmental Affairs Minister Valentinas Mazuronis representing the Lithuanian presidency of the EU Council of Ministers, signed a Cooperation Agreement between Indonesia and the European Union (EU) for the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade-Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT-VPA) at the end of September 2013 in Brussels, Belgium.
The significance of the agreement is when the FLEGT-VPA runs completely and a FLEGT license is issued, Indonesian wood products will comply with EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) No. 995/2010, which prohibits the placement and circulation of illegal timber products in the EU market. Businesses in the EU therefore will not have to perform due diligence on wood products that have been licensed with FLEGT. Indonesia is the first Asian country to sign a VPA with the EU and is the largest timber exporting country that signed a FLEGT-VPA.
The FLEGT-VPA aims to stop illegal timber trade and ensure only timber and timber related products that have been legally verified may be imported into the EU from Indonesia. This agreement includes the licensing system over wood products exported from Indonesia to any of the 28 member countries of the EU. The agreement is based on the Timber Legality Verification System (SVLK) whose implementation is in line with the principles of the FLEGT.
The SVLK is mandatory for forest business units and the timber industry in Indonesia. It is a form of a national initiative to anticipate the rise of demand for timber legality certification schemes from foreign countries, such as FSC, PEFC, and so on.
The FLEGT-VPA is certainly stronger than the timber legality certificate as mentioned in the previous paragraph. The FLEGT-VPA serves as a binding agreement between governments. The EU maintains high standards and demands high quality timber products. The EU’s acknowledgement of the validity of SVLK is one of the strong points of the agreement while the FSC and the equivalent businesses initiative claim it is based on consumer demand and perhaps environmental organizations.
By entering into the FLEGT-VPA, Indonesian timber manufacturers are no longer required to adopt any timber certification scheme except FLEGT-VPA. Logically, if the European market as represented by its government representative has been able to receive the SVLK scheme, then the timber products from Indonesia will be more easily accepted by the American market, Japan, China, and Australia as well. This is a sweet promise that lies beneath the FSC that can offer access to a wider market.
The FLEGT-VPA hopefully can challenge the snobbery of timber legality certification schemes such as the FSC, which acts as if it is a determinant of the fate of a business. Conversely, if the global companies that actually need timber products from Indonesia intend to impose their own certification scheme and complicate the Indonesian timber products which are certified by FLEGT-VPA, such a rebellion would degrade the sovereignty of the intergovernment agreement.