Laos prepares for VPA/FLEGT negotiation with EU

The Laos FLEGT Technical Working Group on Thursday finalised key parts of the draft timber legality definition to be submitted to the European Union (EU) by the end of 2016.

The submission is a crucial preparation for the first face-to-face negotiation between the Lao government and the EU on the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), scheduled for late February 2017.

“The proper definition of legal timber is crucial to improve sustainable forest management and good governance in Laos, as it helps to enhance understanding among of relevant government staff and the private sector in the forestry and timber industry, especially when it comes to forest inspection practices,” said Mr Khamphout Phandanouvong, Director General of Forest Inspection Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. He is also the Head of the National Support and Development Committee for the Lao-EU FLEGT process.

“The Timber Legality Definition allows us to identify gaps and redress and improve areas of legislation and regulation that are difficult to implement, impractical or confusing,” he added.

Once the legal definition of timber is determined through multi-stakeholder platforms and discussions with the EU, a field test of the legality definition will be conducted. The test allows an additional review of the definition to ensure applicability in the field.

During the initial stage of the Lao-EU FLEGT process, three pilot provinces were selected, namely Xayaboury, Khammuan and Attapeu.

In 2003, the EU published a Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan to help combat illegal logging in countries from which it imports timber. A key element of the FLEGT Action Plan is a voluntary scheme to ensure that only legally harvested timber is imported into the EU from countries agreeing to take part in this scheme.