Thailand and the European Union (EU) have held their first negotiations towards a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) to improve forest governance and promote trade in verified legal timber products.
The negotiations took place in Bangkok on 29 and 30 June and focused on technical issues — including the draft VPA product scope and legality definition, as well as Thailand’s initial ideas on supply chain controls and mechanisms for verifying the legality of timber and timber products. The Thai side was led by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. On the EU side the European Commission Directorate General for Environment led the talks.
The two sides also spoke about Thailand’s legislative and other developments – both nationally and internationally – that are beyond strict forest-related issues, but still related to the VPA process. The negotiators also discussed the next steps in the national process, and agreed on a roadmap until the next negotiation session which will take place in first half of 2018 in Thailand.
Under a VPA, Thailand would develop a system to document and verify the legality of timber and timber products it produces, processes, imports and places on any market, and make other commitments on transparency and independent monitoring. Thailand emphasised that the VPA will enhance the trading relationship between Thailand and EU, and help Thailand to meet its commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Thailand now joins a coalition of countries that are using trade to fight illegal logging and improve forest governance,” said Jorge Rodriguez Romero, Deputy Head of Global Multilateral Cooperation Unit at the European Commission Directorate General for Environment. “By starting VPA negotiations with the EU, Thailand demonstrates its commitment to sustainable forest management and the global forest agenda.”
The content of the VPA will be developed through national deliberations in Thailand among stakeholders from the government, private sector and civil society. The national process has already made progress towards defining legality and field-testing the definition and verification procedures to assess practicality and robustness.
The EU and Thailand recognise that the process of negotiating and implementing the VPA will be a long-term undertaking for both parties.