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Vietnam & EU sign agreement on legal timber trade

Released at: 14:34, 10/05/2019

Vietnam & EU sign agreement on legal timber trade

Photo: vtv.vn

Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA/FLEGT) to take effect on June 1.

by Jessica Nguyen

The Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Vietnam and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development held a joint meeting on May 8 to announce the approval and ratification of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA/FLEGT).

The VPA/FLEGT will take effect on June 1 in the context of increasing bilateral relations between the EU and Vietnam, with both sides preparing to sign the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). It sends a strong signal on Vietnam and the EU’s commitment towards frontloading the implementation of the “Trade and Sustainable Development” Chapter of the EVFTA, which includes provisions on sustainable forest management and trade in forest products.

Implementation marks the beginning of a joint commitment between the EU and Vietnam to work together to address illegal logging and associated trade. Vietnam will develop a timber legality assurance system (VNTLAS) to ensure that its exports of timber and timber products come from legal sources, including systems to verify that Vietnamese businesses are only importing timber that has been legally harvested and traded in accordance with relevant legislation in the country of harvest. This means that illegally harvested timber, as well as those businesses trading in it, will not be able to be part of supply chains regulated by the timber legality assurance system that Vietnam is putting in place.

The commitments outlined in the agreement together with the provisions of the Forestry Law 2017 regulate that the importation, exportation, harvesting, processing, and trading of illegal timber and timber products are prohibited in accordance with Vietnamese legislation and international agreements. Vietnam is continuing to adopt new legislation in order to harmonize the agreement’s commitments, including the preparation of a Decree on the VNTLAS which is be expected to be promulgated by the government by the end of the year.

Both sides agreed to establish a Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) to oversee how the provisions of the agreement are put into practice; a process that is likely to last several years. The JIC will also facilitate dialogue and exchange of information between the two sides and promote the activities of Vietnam’s Multi-Stakeholder Core Group on VPA/FLEGT, which is serving as an effective forum for independent monitoring and providing input to the JIC on the implementation of the agreement. A joint assessment will also be conducted before the start of the FLEGT licensing scheme.

The agreement will be fully implemented when the FLEGT licensing scheme starts. At that time, each shipment of timber and timber products from Vietnam exported to the EU will be accompanied by a FLEGT license. FLEGT licensing will provide certainty over meeting the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits the placing of illegal timber on the EU market. Until FLEGT licensing starts, imports from Vietnam will continue to be subject to the due diligence requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, aimed at ensuring that the risk of placing illegal products from Vietnam on the EU market is negligible.

The EU, meanwhile, will promote a favorable position for FLEGT-licensed timber and timber products in its market. In addition to a variety of social, economic, and environmental benefits associated with the better management of the forestry sector in Vietnam, FLEGT licensing will also contribute to increasing the credibility of Vietnam’s timber processing industry, not only in the EU but also in other export markets, which increasingly demand legal timber.

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