Experts Group on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade (EGILAT) of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held the Workshop on “Advancing the Trade and Distribution of Legally Harvested Forest Products in the APEC Region” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on February 4th and 5th. Official representatives from 11 economies, including the US, Japan, and Australia, attended, while representatives from organizations such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), as well as industry representatives, were invited to jointly discuss and collaborate on issues related to combating the trade of illegal forest products. The Forestry Bureau, Council of Agriculture (COA) attended on behalf of Taiwan together with the private company OwlTing Group, who shared the application of Taiwan's blockchain technology on the traceability of legal forest products. The presentation received unanimous affirmation from all economies present.
The Forestry Bureau stated that the preservation of forest resources has become an issue of global concern, especially under the impact of climate change. Combating the international illegal timber trade problem in order to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the loss of biodiversity from deforestation urgently requires governmental support and cooperation of all countries. Therefore, APEC established the Experts Group on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade (EGILAT) in 2012. Through close contact and semiannual workshops and meetings, the economies of the Asia-Pacific region jointly explore feasible cooperation solutions and share their experiences and practices.
The Forestry Bureau further pointed out that the tracing and identification of legal sources of timber and related products is the key to promoting the legal and combating the illegal timber trade. It was also one of the most difficult technical bottlenecks to overcome in the past. In particular, due to laws and regulations differing in each country, as well as discrepancies in process interfaces and inconsistent standards in legal document certification of timber products during production, processing, or entrepôt trade, the complexity of determining legality is further deepened. Therefore, the Forestry Bureau has been in cooperation with OwlTing Group since last year to jointly develop the Taiwan Forest Product Production Traceability System. Using the features of blockchain technology, such as decentralization and anti-tampering, the system replaces traditional paper documents to avoid the possibility of product source falsification. The Forestry Bureau also emphasizes that the blockchain is highly expandable. If more economies are willing to join in the future, in addition to reducing the interface conversion and improving efficiency, the more organizations that join, the more transparency and more credibility the whole supply chain will have, which in turn will achieve the goal of curbing illegal timber trade. Chang Shang-yuan, business director of the OwlTing Group, explained this concept at the meeting. Chen Feng-hsi, chairman of the National Union of Timber Trade Association of R.O.C., also shared Taiwan's industrial experience and received warm response and affirmation from the representatives of various economies, who expressed their belief that it has great potential to become a future forest product trade application technology.