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News release

ITTO puts the case for open market access

Yokohama, Japan, 3 September 2001

Market access for tropical timber and tropical timber products is essential for achieving sustainable tropical forest management.

This is the message conveyed by ITTO's Executive Director, Dr Manoel Sobral, in response to a 'good wood' bill currently under consideration by the New York City Committee on Contracts. If passed, the bill would require New York City agencies to adopt a procurement policy requiring the use of wood products certified as coming from 'well-managed' forests whenever possible.

In a letter to Mr Ketut Kaler Ginaputra, President of the Indonesian Wood Panel Association, that was later handed to the Mayor of New York, Dr Sobral described the progress being made by ITTO member countries towards sustainable forest management. Most has been made in policy, legislative and institutional reform, the establishment of permanent forest estates, and the expansion of forests dedicated to conservation, although much more needs to be done.

However, Dr Sobral expressed his worry that the legislation proposed for New York City would effectively block the bulk of wood products from developing countries that are yet to secure the certification of their forests, even though many are making serious efforts to raise forest management standards and to develop certification systems.

"The overriding concern is that the proposed legislation and its timing may undermine and frustrate on-going efforts to improve forest management in developing producing countries which badly need the revenues from their wood products exports to finance national development and the sustainable management of their forest resources," he said.

Dr Sobral also said that governments have an important role to play in encouraging transparency, the full participation of interested parties, non-discrimination, and open access to voluntary certification schemes.

"We believe that the development of voluntary forest and timber certification schemes as a market-based tool should be encouraged and promoted and not imposed through legislation," he said.

Dr Sobral has also been taking this message to local councils in Australia. During a recent visit there, he spoke with the Brisbane City Council and the Waverley and Leichart city councils in Sydney.

"Responsible buying by consumers is an important part of sustainable development," he said. "Timber producers recognize the increasing demand for certified timber in several important markets and are moving as rapidly as possible towards sustainable forest management. But to shut the door on them now would be counterproductive because it will discourage such efforts and remove an important incentive for good forest management."

For more information contact: Mr. Amha bin Buang, ITTO Secretariat, itto@itto.or.jp