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High praise indeed: UK timber traders wish to maintain EUTR and FLEGT

In the uncertain process of disentangling the United Kingdom from its European partners, the UK timber industry have cautioned not to throw the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) and FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements (FLEGT VPAs) out with the Brexit bathwater.

The Timber Trade Journal reports that, although the industry “may continue highlighting room for improvement, the UK trade consensus seems to be that neither the EUTR or FLEGT VPA initiative should be replaced or downgraded as part of Brexit”.

The industry acknowledges that the legislation has been helpful, especially in managing due diligence and obtaining documentation from suppliers. They are however concerned by the EUTR’s uneven enforcement across Member States, and by the legislative turmoil and trade obstacles that abandoning the EUTR would entail.

Regarding FLEGT VPAs, the UK timber traders and manufacturers are concerned about delays in implementation and the fact that, so far, only Indonesia has issued FLEGT licenses. Yet many of the crucial milestones that occur in the run-up to issuing licenses (improved governance and transparency, capacity-building, involvement of all stakeholders) also carry commercial benefits. Accordingly, the industry now sees the importance of drawing other key wood-producing nations into the VPA process. For instance, even at its early stages, maintaining VPA negotiations with harshly criticised Myanmar is perceived as key to “keeping it at the reform discussions table”.

Whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations, Keith Fryer, president of the UK Timber Trade Federation that accounts for two-thirds of Britain’s timber trade, states that the EUTR will “continue to play a massive part in the UK timber trade”.