Tackling illegality together
The EU has long been a key importer of timber and timber products from Cameroon. In recent years, rising international concerns about the social, economic and environmental impacts of illegal logging have prompted policy shifts with profound implications for that trade.
In 2003, the EU launched its Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. Its measures include Voluntary Partnership Agreements, or VPAs, which are bilateral trade agreements between the EU and timber-exporting countries outside the EU. A VPA seeks to ensure that timber and timber products imported into the EU from a partner country comply with the laws of that country.
Cameroon is one of six countries to have signed a VPA with the EU to date. Under the agreement, Cameroon is now developing a timber legality assurance system that will issue verified legal timber products with FLEGT licenses, which will expedite access to the EU market.
‘I believe that markets are more and more open to those who abide by the laws’, said Zacharie Wandja, president of an SME association called ANEFNTB. ‘That is a benefit and I think that this means a professionalization of the industry’.
The impetus to ensure legality increased in March 2013 when another aspect of the EU FLEGT Action Plan swung into operation: A new law called the EU Timber Regulation entered into force. As a result, importers are required for the first time to ensure that the timber and timber products they trade in are legal.