Indonesia and the EU have finally agreed a landmark timber trade agreement to stem the flow of illegal timber into Europe.

Indonesia will only permit the export of timber licensed from a new national timber legality assurance system, SVLK, which will be audited independently by ISO-accredited auditors.

EU customs will prevent any unlicensed Indonesian timber products from entering the trading zone.

The Voluntary Partnership Agreement is the first in Asia and will govern a trade estimated to be worth about US$1bn a year. Negotiations have taken four years and will conclude with a formal signing in Jakarta on May 5.

The VPA is part of the EU Forest law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative to establish systems to halt the import of illegal timber products. Four VPAs already exist in Africa.

London-based Environmental Investigation Agency has campaigned for action with its Indonesia partner for the past decade. It said the deal was a massive blow to timber barons who have been ransacking the rainforests.