Dead end for Malaysia - EU VPA ?

Dead end for Malaysia - EU VPA ?

The first Malaysia - EU negotiations on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) started back in 2006, but so far not much progress has been made. In order to ensure a legality assurance system for it's timber, Malaysia introduced it's own TLAS in 2013. However, MYTLAS has several drawbacks, especially when the timber involved is not from sustainable resources.
Where Indonesia has already signed a VPA and the first Indonesian FLEGT timber will arrive in the UK and Belgium in December, it’s incomprehensible that Malaysia can't get its act together. Especially since the EU is one of the three top markets for Malaysian timber and timber products. A lack of transparency and it's inability to abolish illegal logging are working against Malaysia. With regularity stories about illegal logging in Sarawak, Pahang, Terengganu appear in local and international media. It's not for nothing that Malaysia’s Borneo has the world’s highest rate of tropical forest loss.
The vast majority of Malaysia’s forests are state-owned
With only 2% privately owned, the vast majority of Malaysia’s forests are owned by the state. To have the Federal Government a say on land and water matters, the Constitution needs to be amended. Without power, the Federal Government’s hands are tied. State Governments are not exactly waiting to assign their power to the Federal Government since most of them have hidden agendas and are mainly focussed on collecting revenues.

In December 2015 a group of MEPs issued a motion denouncing the deteriorating human rights situation and in particular the crackdown on civil society activists, and requesting a debate on an urgent case of a breach of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Malaysia. VPA negotiations cannot go in the right direction unless the Government of Malaysia addresses these, and other, concerns.
A Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) is a legally binding trade agreement between the European Union and a timber-producing country outside the EU.
The purpose of a VPA is to en­sure that timber and timber products exported to the EU come from legal sources. The agreements also help timber-exporting countries stop illegal logging by improving regulation and governance of the forest sector.

More controversy

There has been renewed controversy around the Netherlands’ procurement policy for Malaysian timber. In 2014, the Dutch government took the controversial step of accepting timber certified under the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) within its sustainable procurement rules for a limited period of two years, after which time the position would be reviewed again due to persistent concerns about the MTCS standard. In July 2015, after a visit to Malaysia, the Dutch State Secretaries for Economic Affairs and Environment notified the House of Representatives that they will allow tropical hardwood from Malaysia with the MTCS label to enter the Dutch market without any conditions, and that Malaysian CSOs, including JOAS (a collective of Malaysian human rights and indigenous rights NGOs), were satisfied with the quality of the standards and the implementation of the MTCS. However JOAS has publicly denied its involvement and complained about the flawed or nonexistent consultation process under the MTCS. JOAS also reaffirmed that ‘free and prior informed consent’ is not properly integrated into the MTCS guidelines and not correctly implemented in practice.

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