Proposal stresses regional co-operation to conserve forests

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2007, 12:00am

Beijing and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) issued a joint proposal yesterday on conserving forest resources, a move which they say could help maintain sustainable forestry development.

The proposal, reached at the end of the China-Asean Forestry Co-operation Forum in Nanning , Guangxi , follows heavy criticism by environmental groups of the mainland's expanding timber imports and their adverse effects on the world's forest resources.

Although Beijing has repeatedly asserted that it has gradually decreased imports over the past few years and put in place effective measures against the importation of smuggled tropical timbers, various green groups have pointed out the continued existence of such illegal practices, especially from Indonesia.

The mainland imports timber to process into furniture, paper pulp and other products for export and domestic use.

'Strengthening co-operation between China and Asean in the field of forestry will enable sustainable forestry development in China and Asean countries, and provide mutual benefits for both sides,' the proposal says.

Both sides agreed to enhance high-level communication between forestry authorities, strengthen exchange and co-operation in forestry legislation, law enforcement and governance and standardise timber and wood product trade procedures, Xinhua reported.

They also agreed to explore mechanisms for preventing forest fire on national borders and raise the awareness of those living in such areas, it said.

Li Yucai , deputy director of China's State Forestry Administration, said the need to reduce the felling of trees and increase forestry coverage was a consensus held by the region and the world.

'China is working to increase its forest coverage from the current 18 per cent to 23 per cent by the year 2020,' Mr Li told the forum.

The forest coverage in the mainland and Asean members accounts for 68 per cent of Asia's total and 10 per cent of the world's total.

At another forum during the four-day China-Asean Expo that closes today, financial experts from the mainland and the Asean countries called for strengthened financial co-operation to ensure stability in the region and the world as a whole should there be any repeat of the Asian financial crisis that swept across the region a decade ago.