The European Union and Malaysia agreed Monday to open negotiations to cut down on the trade of illegal timber that is exported to European countries.

The deal aims to help Malaysia preserve its endangered natural forests. Malaysia's Minister of Plantation Industries Peter Chin and the E.U. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas signed the deal. Malaysia's main export product is currently timber.

I am confident that other countries will join Malaysia in this ambitious initiative, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement.

Under the deal, Malaysia and the EU will establish a voluntary partnership on forest law enforcement, governance and trade, the E.U. said in a statement.

According to the EU, the organization ranks among the main trading partners of Malaysia. In 2004, it absorbed nearly 16 percent of Malaysia's merchandise exports and provided 12 percent of its imports. The EU is Malaysia's third largest export market after ASEAN and the US.