U.S., Indonesia Agree to Target Illegal Logging

EoF News / 23 November 2006

WASHINGTON, DC, November 20, 2006 (ENS) - A new agreement to fight illegal logging in Indonesia signed last week by U.S. and Indonesian officials was praised today by the leaders of both nations.

After their six hour meeting at Indonesia's Bogor Palace today, President George W. Bush and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono applauded the memo of agreement that is intended to combat illegal logging and trade in illegally logged wood.

President Bush said, "Our two nations continue to build strong trade and investment relationships. We're determined to grow our economies in a way that are sustainable."

"Last week, we signed an agreement to help Indonesia conserve its forests. Together, our nations will fight illegal logging while promoting trade in forest products that does not threaten the region's environmental quality," Bush said.

In a joint statement, the two leaders also praised the resumption of cooperation and capacity building activities between the U.S. Forest Service and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry.

The memo of agreement was signed Thursday on the margins of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Hanoi under the U.S.-ASEAN Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement.

The two nations have agreed to exchange information on the trade in illegally harvested forest products and cooperate on law enforcement.

The $1 million the United States has committed immediately will fund remote sensing of illegal logging activities and enhancing partnerships with nongovernmental organizations and the private sector.

President Yudhoyono said the United States also had made commitments to help Indonesia develop biofuels and eradicate bird flu.

President Bush today returns to the United States from a five day trip to Southeast Asia. He visited Singapore and then attended the 14th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' Meeting on November 18 and 19 in Hanoi, Vietnam. He will spend tonight at a military base in Hawaii and fly on to Washington on Tuesday.

In Indonesia, a largely Muslim nation, thousands of protesters took to the streets to express their displeasure with the Bush administration's war in Iraq and support of Israel.

World Wildlife Fund, WWF, today praised the agreement to fight illicit logging. "This agreement represents a promising step towards preventing illegal logging, protecting endangered species and habitats throughout Indonesia and securing markets for legally-grown Indonesian wood and wood products," said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund based in Washington, DC.

"WWF is eager to support the U.S. and Indonesian governments in this promising initiative because it complements much of our ongoing work to prevent illegal logging and enhance trade in sustainable forest products," said Roberts.

According to a June report from the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency, EIA, an international environmental group, the U.S. imports over $700 million each year in timber and wood products from Indonesia.

In some areas, like the remote province of Irian Jaya on the island of New Guinea, as much as 80 percent of timber is illegally harvested according to the EIA report.

Over $1 billion in losses are incurred each year by the U.S. timber industry due to illegal logging abroad, WWF says.

"Through our extensive field projects and our comprehensive efforts to positively impact policy and trade affecting the tropical forests of Indonesia, WWF is well placed to help ensure that this initiative succeeds," Roberts said.

While Indonesia has the most extensive rainforest cover in Asia, its forests are rapidly being reduced by illegal logging, even in national parks.

Between 1990 and 2005 the country lost more than 28 million hectares of forest, including 21.7 million hectares of virgin forest, according to data from the United Nations. Logging concessions have been linked to the illegal wildlife trade as well.

United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab and Indonesia’s Minister of Trade Mari E. Pangestu and Minister of Forestry M.S. Kaban signed the bilateral agreement.

"A core part of our international trade agenda must be combating illegal trade, including protecting endangered species. Today’s agreement with Indonesia constitutes a new model for international engagement in this area," said Ambassador Schwab.

This agreement is the first of its kind for both countries, said Schwab. It will help ensure that Indonesia’s legally produced timber and wood products have continued access to U.S. and other international markets.

--Environmental News Service