Vietnam, EU complete negotiations to boost legal timber trade
  • | Nhan Dan | May 18, 2017 03:29 PM
Vietnam and the European Union (EU) have concluded negotiations on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), with an aim to improve forest governance, address illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products from Vietnam to the EU and other markets.

The VPA targets to better management of the forestry sector in Vietnam.

After nearly six years of negotiation, last week, Astrid Schomaker, Director for Global Sustainable Development of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment, and Ha Cong Tuan, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, initialed the text of the FLEGT VPA, marking the formal conclusion of the negotiations.

The two sides undertake a legal review of the negotiated text, which will then be followed by translation of the Agreement into the EU's official languages and Vietnamese. Before the agreement can enter into force, each party will have to complete the procedure for signature and ratification of the agreement in line with its internal procedures.

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 complaints mechanisms and independent evaluations, as well as commitments to involve stakeholders in its implementation and on disclosure of information.

A Joint Implementation Committee will oversee implementation of the agreement. Concerned parties also agreed on key elements for interim governance arrangements and other measures to prepare for implementation of the agreement.

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 licence, demonstrating their legality. Before the start of FLEGT licencing, 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 to 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 licencing is expected to simplify business for timber traders, as FLEGT-licensed products automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits 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.

Vietnam is one of 15 countries that are implementing or negotiating VPAs with the EU. In 2015, the value of wood and paper products exported from Vietnam to the EU was EUR438 million.

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