Vietnam and EU agreed in principle on a FLEGT VPA

After six years of negotiation, Vietnam looks next in line to ratify its Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT VPA) with the EU. That was the message from Brussels and Hanoi after an ‘agreement in principle’, between EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella and Vietnamese Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong, which effectively gave a FLEGT VPA the go ahead. An EU statement said the ‘substance of the deal’ was agreed and pending ‘technical, consistency and legal checks’ ratification is expected to start next year.

Wood export pact between Vietnam and EU in final stage

Negotiations between Vietnam and the European Union to expand the export of wood and wood products to Europe are expected to be complete by the end of the year. This information was released by Ambassador Bruno Angelet, head of the Delegation of the European Union to Vietnam at a meeting of the Vietnam Administration of Forestry (VNAF). The purpose of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA/FLEGT) is to expand Việt Nam’s wood and wood product export market to the EU through a mechanism called the Timber Legality Assurance System of Việt Nam (VNTLAS), which grants certifications for wood shipments to the EU.

Owners of shipments with FLEGT certifications will not have to declare the legal origin of the wood in line with the European Union Timber Regulation. The deputy head of the Administration’s Science, Technology and International Co-operation Department, Nguyễn Tường Vân, said FLEGT certifications were only granted by countries which sign Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) with the EU. Currently, six countries have partnered with the EU including Indonesia, Liberia, Congo, Ghana, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic; and three others are stil in negotiations.

On November 15, Indonesia’s first wood and wood product shipment will be FLEGT certified. This is good news for Vietnam, which also imports wood materials from Indonesia for furniture export to the EU, Vân said. Nguyễn Văn Hà, VNAF deputy director who is also head of the Vietnamese negotiating team, said talks started in November 2010 and have included 16 technical negotiation rounds and eight high-level talks. A signing ceremony to wrap up the negotiations is planned on November 18 and the agreement is set to be inked later this year. Angelet said there was still work ahead after the agreement signing because it was not simple to change habits of forest planting, wood processing and timber product exportation.
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About 45% of Vietnam's land area is forested, and the country has a key role in processing in the timber sector in Southeast Asia. Vietnam imports timber from some 80 countries – in recent years main suppliers have included Cambodia, Laos, China, USA and Malaysia. Domestic plantation timber is increasingly used in the production of timber products and for the export of woodchip. Vietnam’s wooden furniture exports mainly target environmentally conscious markets in the EU, the US and Japan.

EU and Vietnam expect to sign FLEGT-VPA by end 2016

The EU and Vietnam reached important agreements during their fifth round of negotiations on the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade. According to Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan, the talks on January 21 and 22 focused on putting in place a management system to ensure the legality of Vietnamese timber, especially the legal origin of imported wood.
The VPA on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade aims to ensure that all Vietnamese wood products exported to EU countries are of legal origin. Once in effect, the agreement is expected to boost Viet Nam’s wood processing and export industry, allowing for sustainable growth and market expansion.
In a joint announcement released after the meeting, the two sides highlighted that efforts will be made to conclude the negotiations by the end of 2016. The result of the fifth round of talks is important to the free trade agreement between Viet Nam and the EU, particularly in terms of protecting the environment and bio-diversity. The EU, which makes up about one-fourth of world consumption, is now the fourth largest importer of Viet Nam’s timber and wood products, after the US, Japan and China. In the first eight months of 2015, Viet Nam’s timber and wood product exports to the EU brought in VND9,900,800 million, while its timber imports from the bloc was VND2,486,400 million.

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