Laos-EU VPA negotiations advance

The European Union (EU) and Laos have held their second round of face-to-face negotiations on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). The talks took place in the Lao capital Vientiane from 4-7 June 2018.

“The second round of negotiations with the EU underlines that enhancing forest governance throughout the entire timber supply chain and the conclusion of a VPA remain high priorities on Laos’ political agenda” said Dr. Phouangparisak Pravongviengkham, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Forestry and Head of the Lao negotiating team.

The second round of face-to-face negotiations on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) went smoothly (Photo credit: ProFLEGT )

The two parties discussed progress towards the development of a system to verify that timber and timber products comply with national laws and regulations.

Since the first face-to-face negotiations in April 2017, Laos has made progress on various elements of this system, including the timber legality definition, which identifies the national laws and regulations Laos will use to indicate legality of timber.

Laos has also started discussions on supply chain controls, from the forest to the point of export, and on verification processes, which will check that timber and timber products comply with the legality definition and supply chain controls.

During their talks, the EU and Laos reviewed the draft timber legality definition. They agreed that parts of this definition relating to the supply chain for natural production forest are ready for field-testing to assess their completeness. They also addressed the range of timber and timber products that the VPA will cover and agreed on the roadmap for further development of the timber legality assurance system.

“Together, the EU and Laos are working on good governance and trade in legal timber, which will have positive impacts on the forest sector in Laos, but also internationally,” said Ambassador Leo Faber, Head of the EU Delegation to Laos. “Laos has been an important exporter of timber products to major regional markets such as China and Vietnam, both of which are also engaging with the EU on forest governance and law enforcement. We value Laos’ determination and commitment to sustainable forest management, which is an objective that FLEGT shares.”

The EU also highlighted the good example that Laos has set with its multi-stakeholder approach to the VPA. In turn, Laos confirmed that all VPA commitments have been and continue to be developed in a participatory and transparent manner with the involvement of representatives from the Government, private sector and civil society. The EU and Laos agreed on the importance of mitigating potential impacts of the forestry sector reforms on households and small-scale operators.

Following the negotiations, work will continue on defining legality, in particular focusing on conversion areas, plantations, village use forests, confiscated and imported timber, as well as other elements of the system to ensure the legality of timber.