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Vietnam Today

Vietnam-EU strike agreement on timber trade

Released at: 10:55, 19/11/2016

Vietnam-EU strike agreement on timber trade

Photo: Duc Anh/Illustration

Two sign agreement to prevent illegal logging and promote legal trade.

by Hong Nhung

Vietnam and the EU reached an in principle understanding over a Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT VPA) on November 18 in Hanoi, which will help improve forest governance, address illegal logging, and promote trade in verified legal timber products from Vietnam to the EU.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong and EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella agreed to work together towards reducing illegal logging and promoting trade in legally-produced timber between Vietnam and the EU through an ambitious licensing system for timber and timber products.

This will ensure that Vietnam’s exports of timber and timber products to the EU come from legal sources. After nearly six years of negotiations, the substance of the VPA has been agreed while some technical annexes will be finalized by negotiators in the next few months. Vietnam and the EU expect to begin procedures to ratify the agreement some time next year.

“Vietnam and the EU celebrate a milestone in their cooperation in the global fight to end illegal logging,” said Commissioner Vella. “Now we must focus on implementation to ensure that the VPA delivers on its social, environmental and economic goals. A key commitment is to establish a credible and robust system, which involves all stakeholders and includes effective mechanisms to detect violations and ensure law enforcement. The EU will continue to support Vietnam’s efforts in this regard. We will be monitoring closely how the country works to implement the agreement.”

Vietnam is a major timber importing and processing country and has seen exponential growth in its forest-based industries over the past decade and plays an important role in the global market. Illegal logging, however, remains a significant challenge. It deprives the government of revenue, threatens biodiversity and creates conflict with forest communities.

To implement the VPA, Vietnam will develop a timber legality assurance system and other reforms outlined in the agreement, including issuing specific legislation to ensure the legality of the timber it imports for further processing.

Once fully implemented, the VPA is expected to boost confidence in the legality of timber products exported by Vietnam, and deliver wider social and environmental benefits.

Vietnam’s shipments of timber and timber products to the EU will be accompanied by a FLEGT license, demonstrating the legal origin of these products. This will also simplify work 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 implementing or negotiating VPAs with the EU. On November 15, Indonesia became the first VPA partner country to issue FLEGT licenses.

An EU-Vietnam Joint Implementation Committee will oversee implementation of the agreement once it enters into force. Until then, key elements of the interim arrangements have been agreed that will help transition to the implementation phase.

Vietnam is positioned at the center of the global timber products trade. While it exports timber products to all major markets it also imports timber from some 80 countries, including from Africa, Asia and South America. Timber trade between Vietnam and the EU was worth $705 million in 2014.

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