EU and Vietnam sign deal to combat illegal logging and promote trade in legal timber

On 19/10/2018, The EU and Vietnam signed 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.

The Agreement was signed in the margins of the ASEM Summit by EU High Representative/Vice President, Federica Mogherini, the Chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, and the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam, Nguyen Xuan Cuong. It will enter into force after each Party has ratified it in line with their internal procedures.

To implement the VPA, Vietnam will have to develop robust and credible systems to ensure that its exports of timber and timber products come from legal sources, verifying that both domestic and imported timber have been legally harvested and traded in accordance with the relevant legislation in the country of harvest.

The VPA also envisages a functional system of checks and balances, such as complaints mechanisms and independent evaluations, as well as commitments to involve stakeholders in its implementation, and on disclosure of key forestry-related information. These key aspects of the VPA should ensure continuous improvement and strengthening of the Vietnamese timber legality assurance system.

The VPA commitments are already reflected in Vietnam’s recently adopted Forestry Law, which enters into force in January 2019. The new law prohibits import to Vietnam of illegally produced timber. The Vietnamese government is now preparing further implementing legislation, including provisions on due diligence for its importers and on adequate, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions as stipulated in the VPA.

Viet Nam has prepared an operational framework for implementing the VPA and has set up a multistakeholder body, with representatives from industry associations, Vietnamese NGOs and development partners, to actively participate in the process.

An EU-Vietnam Joint Implementation Committee will oversee how the provisions of the Agreement are put into practice, a process that is likely to last several years. A joint assessment will be carried out before actual FLEGT licensing can start. The assessment will verify and confirm 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 an Annex to the VPA.

In addition to the social, economic and environmental benefits associated with better management of the forestry sector in Viet Nam, FLEGT licensing will provide certainty of meeting the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits the placing of illegal timber on the EU market. Until FLEGT licencing starts, imports from Vietnam will continue to be subject to the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation. This means that the EU operators will have to undertake due diligence to ensure that the risk of placing illegal products from Vietnam on the Union market is negligible.

The VPA and its annexes are available on the EUR-lex and on Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s website.

Source: Vietnam Administration of Forestry