The EU and Vietnam signed today 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.
“Today marks the start of an important partnership through which the EU and Vietnam will work together to address illegal logging and its harmful effects,” said High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini. “The EU welcomes the progress Vietnam has made in preparing to implement the VPA and initial steps in strengthening controls of the timber it imports. However, more needs to be done. Controlling the legality of imports will be critical to full implementation of the VPA and ensuring that Vietnam’s exports of timber and timber products to the EU come from legal sources. The EU will maintain close contact with Vietnam and support their efforts in delivering results on the ground."
“Sustainable and legal trade in timber products is consistent with Vietnam’s development goals and its efforts to protect forests and limit climate change,” said Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nguyen Xuan Cuong. “Vietnam is a major timber importing and processing country which has seen an exponential growth of its forest-based industries over the past decade, playing an important role in the global market. Viet Nam’s leadership, its business community and Vietnamese NGOs all support the VPA and continue to engage together in policy reform processes in the forest sector. Vietnam is fully committed to ensure that no illegally harvested timber will enter the Vietnamese market and will take all necessary steps to tackle these through effective enforcement."
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 multi-stakeholder 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.
19 October 2018