Vietnam ready to trade in legal timber to EU

Starting from June 1, Vietnam can export only verified legal timber products to the European Union (EU) markets as the Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA/FLECT) is officially enforced.

The Delegation of the EU to Vietnam and Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on Wednesday announced the completion of the process of approval and ratification of VPA/FLECT.

According to Nguyễn Quốc Trị, Director of the Vietnam Administration of Forestry, the implementation of the VPA/FLECT marks the beginning of a joint commitment of the EU and Vietnam to work together to address illegal logging and associated trade.

To implement the VPA/ FLEGT, Vietnam will develop a timber legality assurance system (VNTLAS) to ensure that its exports of timber and timber products come from legal sources, including systems to verify that Vietnamese businesses are only importing timber that has been legally harvested and traded in accordance with the relevant legislations in the country of harvest.

This means that illegally harvested timber, as well as those businesses trading with it, will not be able to be a part of supply chains regulated by the timber legality assurance system that Vietnam is putting in place.

To implement the agreement, Vietnam will continue to adopt the new legislation in order to harmonise the agreement’s commitments, including the preparation of a decree on the VNTLAS which is expected to be promulgated by the end of 2019.

The two sides also agreed to establish a joint implementation committee (JIC) to oversee how the provisions of the agreement will be put into practice. JIC will also facilitate dialogue and exchange of information between both sides.

The agreement was fully implemented when the FLEGT licensing scheme started.

At that time, each shipment of timber and timber products from Vietnam exported to the EU would be accompanied by a FLEGT license. FLEGT licensing would provide the certainty of meeting the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits the placing of illegal timber on the EU market.

Hà Công Tuấn, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that in addition to the variety of social, economic and environmental benefits associated with better management of the forestry sector in Vietnam, FLEGT licensing would contribute increase the credibility of Vietnam’s timber processing industry not only in the EU, but also in other export markets, which are increasingly in demand for legal timber.

“The VPA/FLECT sends a strong signal on Vietnam and the EU’s commitment towards front-loading the implementation of the ‘Trade and Sustainable Development’ Chapter of the EVFTA, which includes provisions on sustainable forest management and trade in forest products,” Tuấn said.

According to Head of the EU Delegation to Vietnam Ambassador Bruno Angelet, Vietnam was the second country in Asia to sign the VPA/FLECT with the EU, after Indonesia.

He said that Vietnam’s export of timber products to the EU could expect to see strong growth when the agreement entered into force, adding that the EU would continue to provide support to Vietnam in developing VNTLAS and FLECT licensing.

Both sides launched the VPA/FLEGT negotiation in October 2010, and started the negotiation process from November 2011. The agreement was signed over six years later, in Brussels.

Vietnam exports timber products to 120 countries and territories, including major markets such as the EU, the US, Japan, China, Korea and Australia.

In 2018, Vietnam’s export of wood and timber products reached a record value of $9.3 billion, $900 million of which was to the EU markets.