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5. Mr W. Killmann, Director of the FAO Forest Products Division, opened the meeting on behalf of Mr Hosney El Lakany, the Assistant Director-General of the Forestry Department, and welcomed the participants in the name of the FAO Director-General, Mr Jacques Diouf. He expressed his appreciation in seeing such a good turnout of experts and representatives from various key agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and from the private sector. In his opening statement, Mr Killmann underlined the importance given to this meeting by FAO. He further expressed his appreciation for INBAR's continuing and constructive collaboration with FAO in the furtherance of the sustainable development of bamboo and rattan, and noted that, almost exactly two years ago, FAO and INBAR had jointly organized an expert consultation on rattan development (Rome, 5-7 December 2000).

6. Mr Killmann stressed the great importance being given by FAO to the need for reliable statistics on trade in forest products, such as those on rattan and bamboo, so as to document their contribution to sustainable forest management and better forest utilization. He further underlined that bamboo and rattan greatly contribute to improve the livelihoods of forest-dependent people and to their food security.

7. Mr Killmann stated that this meeting was timely planned, as it underscored the growing importance the international community attached to the development of better and more reliable reporting and statistics on the contribution of the forest sector. He also emphasized that this meeting was designed to facilitate an open dialogue among experts, and that the ensuing technical discussions and recommendations of the meeting would be a direct contributing factor to moving towards better forest sector statistics, particularly those on non-wood forest products (NWFP).

8. Mr Killmann wished the participants success in their deliberations and assured them that FAO would do its utmost to convey the conclusions and recommendations of the meeting to relevant fora in order to foster the sustainable development of the bamboo and rattan sector for the benefit of the people who depend on it. He informed the participants that the deliberations of the meeting would be made available to forthcoming high-level intergovernmental meetings, including the fifteenth session of the Committee on Forestry (12-16 March 2003).

9. As co-organizer of this meeting, Mr Lobovikov, in the name of the Director-General of INBAR, Mr Ian Hunter, expressed pleasure in having joined FAO in hosting this meeting. He thanked the participants and was pleased to note that so many key experts and agencies were attending. Mr Lobovikov informed the meeting that the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) had recently recognized INBAR as the responsible International Commodity Body for Bamboo and Rattan, with a mandate to produce trade statistics on bamboo and rattan products. Mr Lobovikov updated the participants on INBAR's main programmes and gave a brief overview on its work related to trade statistics. He underlined that INBAR was in a process of transformation from a research network into a significant force for development. He further informed the participants that this meeting formed a key part of INBAR's new strategy and activities towards improving more reliable production and trade statistics on bamboo and rattan products.

10. Mr Lobovikov recalled that bamboo and rattan were two of the rare commodities that could be harvested by local people, handled with low-capital equipment, fabricated in craft industries and yet could sell in the developed world. Bamboo and rattan production was, therefore, an excellent vehicle for poverty alleviation in rural areas. In addition, bamboo and rattan furniture had established a distinct market niche in many countries. However, he noted that it was difficult to assess the contribution of bamboo and rattan products in view of their poor visibility in international or national trade statistics.

11. Mr Lobovikov further informed the participants that this meeting was organized as a follow-up to decision 8(XXXI) of 3 November 2001, approved by the International Tropical Timber Council (ITTC), to investigate the modalities and establishment of a database of statistics on trade in bamboo and rattan, the report of which had been presented at the 33rd ITTO session from 4 to 9 November 2002. A key recommendation of this report was to hold an international expert consultation with representatives of INBAR, FAO, ITTO, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and WCO to discuss and produce a draft submission of required codes on bamboo and rattan products for consideration by the HS Codes Committee of the WCO. He underlined the timely planning of this meeting in view of the tight timetable of revision of the HS by the WCO Codes Committee and wished the participants success in their deliberations.

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