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Vietnam Today

EU & Vietnam partner to promote trade in legal timber

Released at: 11:17, 08/01/2019

EU & Vietnam partner to promote trade in legal timber

The signing ceremony in October 2018. (Photo: Vietnam Administration of Forestry)

Two move towards ratification of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade.

by Hong Nhung

The EU and Vietnam are preparing for the ratification of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), which will help improve forest governance, address illegal logging, and promote trade in verified legal timber products from Vietnam to the EU and other markets.

From January 7 to 9, Ms. Heidi Hautala, Vice President of the European Parliament, is paying a working visit to Vietnam to discuss Vietnam’s preparation for the implementation of the VPA.

“This VPA is the second the EU has concluded with an Asian partner, after Indonesia,” she said. “It is a very important building block in the EU’s wider strategy of promoting biodiversity and sustainable development in Asia and fighting illegal logging and associated trade. Vietnam has committed to adopting legislation to ensure only legally-produced timber is imported to its market.”

“A system based on due diligence by importers can be considered a major achievement of the VPA,” she went on. “Vietnam should make all efforts to ensure that due diligence obligations are not reduced to a ‘tick the box’ exercise. Therefore, the European Parliament is following preparatory work regarding the implementation of the VPA with Vietnam. There are also commitments in this area within the framework of the EVFTA [EU - Vietnam Free Trade Agreement]. Proper implementation of the VPA will therefore facilitate fruitful discussions on the EVFTA.”

“The visit by Vice President Hautala at this time is a good opportunity for both sides to strengthen mutual trust and understanding,” said Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong. “This is also a good chance for Vietnam to affirm the efforts and determination of the government and timber processing and exporting enterprises in fulfilling commitments outlined in the VPA in order to develop a timber processing industry using legal and sustainable timber materials.”

After six years of negotiation, the FLEGT VPA was signed by both the EU and Vietnam on October 19 last year in Brussels. Before it can enter into force, each side is required to complete procedures for its ratification in line with internal procedures. From the EU side, the VPA needs to gain the consent of the European Parliament before it is submitted to the Council of the European Union for approval. From the Vietnam side, the VPA is an international treaty that will be signed on behalf of the government.

Vietnam has approved an Action Plan for the VPA’s implementation, including the development of legal documents and the strengthening of independent monitoring by non-government organizations, industry associations, and relevant stakeholders in the implementation process.

Once the VPA is fully operational, all timber and timber products arriving in the EU from Vietnam will carry a FLEGT license issued by Vietnam. Before the start of this licensing, there will be a period of preparation and assessment to verify that all the commitments outlined in the VPA have met the criteria for operational readiness as set out in a dedicated Annex to the agreement.

The VPA, therefore, is a legally binding commitment to ensure the enforcement of governance and regulatory measures to tackle the problem of illegal logging and at the same time bring credibility as well as economic, social, and environmental benefits.

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