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Vietnam, EU agree in principle on timber trade deal
European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella and Vietnamese Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong announced the completion of the six-year FLEGT negotiations in Hanoi on November 18 after ten high-level and eighteen technical sessions.
Since the start of negotiations in October 2010, the substance of the VPA has been agreed, though some technical annexes still have to be finalised by negotiators in the next few months. The agreement is expected be ratified next year.
Under the agreement, the two sides will work together to reduce illegal logging and promote trade in legally produced timber through a licensing system for Vietnamese timber and timber products.
It is expected to ensure that Vietnam’s exports of timber and timber products to the EU come from legal sources while promoting domestic wood processing and exports in a sustainable way, expanding international export markets, especially the EU, and enhancing brand value for Vietnam’s wood processing industry.
The most important point in the agreement is that Vietnam will develop a timber legality assurance system (VNTLAS) and will undertake other reforms outlined in the document, including issuing specific legislation to ensure the legality of the timber it imports for further processing.
Addressing the ceremony, Minister Cuong affirmed that the full operation of VNTLAS would contribute significantly to ensuring legal origin of Vietnamese timber exported to the EU through FLEGT.
This is the “passport” for shipments of timber and timber products from Vietnam accompanied by a FLEGT licence without being subject to provisions under the EU Timber Regulation when exported to the EU market, the Vietnamese minister stressed.
Cuong also expressed his wish that after being fully deployed, FLEGT VPA would promote confidence in the legality of timber products exported by Vietnam not only in the EU but also in other export markets, as well as bring greater benefits to the economy, environment and society.
EU Commissioner Vella stressed the need to 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 that involves all stakeholders and includes effective mechanisms to detect violations and ensure law enforcement, he said, adding that the EU would continue to support Vietnam's efforts in this regard and monitor closely how the country works to implement the agreement.
Vietnam is one of fifteen countries that are implementing or negotiating VPAs with the EU. On November 15, Indonesia became the first EU VPA partner country to issue FLEGT licences.
Vietnam is a major timber importing and processing country, which has seen its forest-based industries grow exponentially over the past decade. In 2014, the timber trade between Vietnam and the EU was worth US$705 million.
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