Starting from June 1, Việt Nam could export only verified legal timber products to the European Union (EU) markets as the Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA/FLECT) would officially enter into force.
The Delegation of the EU to Việt Nam and Việt Nam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on Wednesday announced the completion of the process of approval and ratification of VPA/FLECT.
According to Nguyễn Quốc Trị, Director of the Việt Nam Administration of Forestry, the implementation of the VPA/FLECT marked the beginning of a joint commitment of the EU and Việt Nam to work together to address illegal logging and associated trade.
To implement the VPA/ FLEGT, Việt Nam would develop a timber legality assurance system (VNTLAS) to ensure that its exports of timber and timber products come from legal sources, including systems to verify that Vietnamese businesses were only importing timber that had been legally harvested and traded in accordance with the relevant legislation in the country of harvest.
This meant that illegally harvested timber, as well as those businesses trading with it, would not be able to be a part of supply chains regulated by the timber legality assurance system that Việt Nam was putting in place.
To implement the agreement, Việt Nam was continuing to adopt new legislation in order to harmonise the agreement’s commitments, including the preparation of a decree on the VNTLAS which was expected to be promulgated by the end of 2019.
The two sides also agreed to establish a joint implementation committee (JIC) to oversee how the provisions of the agreement were put into practice. JIC would also facilitate dialogue and exchange of information between the both sides.
The agreement was fully implemented when the FLEGT licensing scheme started.
At that time, each shipment of timber and timber products from Việt Nam exported to the EU would be accompanied by a FLEGT license. FLEGT licensing would provide certainty of meeting the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibited the placing of illegal timber on the EU market.
Hà Công Tuấn, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, in addition to the variety of social, economic and environmental benefits associated with better management of the forestry sector in Việt Nam, FLEGT licensing would contribute to increase the credibility of Việt Nam’s timber processing industry not only in the EU but also in other export markets, which were increasingly in demand for legal timber.
“The VPA/FLECT sends a strong signal on Việt Nam’s and the EU’s commitment towards front loading the implementation of the ‘Trade and Sustainable Development’ Chapter of the EVFTA, which includes provisions on sustainable forest management and trade in forest products,” Tuấn said.
According to Head of the EU Delegation to Việt Nam Ambassador Bruno Angelet, Việt Nam was the second country in Asia signed VPA/FLECT with the EU, after Indonesia.
He said that Việt Nam’s export of timber products to the EU was expected to see strong growth when the agreement entered into force, adding that the EU would continue to provide supports to Việt Nam in developing VNTLAS and FLECT licensing.
The both sides launched the VPA/FLEGT negotiation in October 2010 and started the negotiation process from November 2011. Over more than six years, on 19 October 2018, in Brussels, the agreement was signed.
Việt Nam was exporting timber products to 120 countries and territories, including major markets such as the EU, the US, Japan, China, Korea and Australia.
In 2018, Việt Nam’s export of wood and timber products reached a record value of $9.3 billion, $900 million of which was to the EU markets.