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Vietnam Today

EU-Vietnam move towards legal timber trade

Released at: 17:51, 17/05/2017

EU-Vietnam move towards legal timber trade

Photo: VNA

Voluntary Partnership Agreement signed between two parties will help improve forest governance, address illegal logging, and promote trade in verified legal timber products.

by Ngoc Chi

The EU and Vietnam have concluded negotiations over a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT).

The agreement will help improve forest governance, address illegal logging, and promote trade in verified legal timber products from Vietnam to the EU and other markets.

After nearly six years of negotiations, Ms. Astrid Schomaker, Director for Global Sustainable Development at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment, and Dr. Ha Cong Tuan, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, initialed the text of the FLEGT VPA on May 17, marking the formal conclusion of negotiations.

To implement the VPA, Vietnam will develop a timber legality assurance system to ensure that its exports of timber and timber products come from legal sources, including systems to verify that imported timber has been legally harvested and traded in accordance with the relevant legislation in the country of harvest. The agreement also provides for the establishment of complaint mechanisms and independent evaluations, as well as commitments to involve stakeholders in its implementation and on information disclosure.

A Joint Implementation Committee will oversee implementation of the agreement. Pending its entry into force, the Parties have also agreed on key elements for interim governance arrangements and other measures to prepare for implementation.

Once the VPA is fully implemented, Vietnam’s shipments of timber and timber products to the EU will have to be accompanied by a FLEGT license, demonstrating their legality.

Prior to the start of FLEGT licensing, there will be a period of implementation and assessment to verify that all the commitments outlined in the VPA have been fulfilled and that the system put in place meets the criteria for operational readiness as set out in a dedicated Annex to the agreement.

In addition to the variety of social, economic, and environmental benefits associated with better management of the forestry sector in Vietnam, FLEGT licensing will simplify business for timber traders, as FLEGT-licensed products automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibit the placing of illegal timber on the EU market. EU operators can therefore place FLEGT-licensed timber on the EU market without being subject to the due diligence provisions of the EU Timber Regulation.

The FLEGT Action Plan is the EU’s response to the problem of illegal logging and related trade. The Action Plan aims to reduce illegal logging by strengthening the sustainability and legality of forest management, improving forest governance and promoting trade in legally-produced timber. FLEGT contributes to efforts to limit climate change, conserve biodiversity, protect rights, and increase transparency. When a VPA country begins FLEGT licensing, EU member states will no longer allow products listed in the VPA to enter the EU unless they have a FLEGT license.

Vietnam is one of 15 countries implementing or negotiating VPAs with the EU. On November 15, 2016, Indonesia became the first country to issue FLEGT licenses.

Vietnam is positioned at the center of the global timber products trade. It imports timber from some 80 countries, including from Africa, Asia and South America, and also exports timber products to all major markets. In 2015, the value of its wood and paper product exports to the EU was $486.6 million.

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