Vietnam ready to trade legal timber with the 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) will officially enter into force, reported Viet Nam News.

The Delegation of the EU to Vietnam and Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on 8 May 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 is developing 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 were only importing timber that had been legally harvested and traded in accordance with the relevant legislation in the country of harvest.

This meant 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 was putting in place.

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

The two sides also agreed to establish a Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) to oversee the implementation of the agreement. JIC would also facilitate dialogue and exchange of information between the 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 provides certainty of meeting the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibited 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 various social, economic and environmental benefits associated with better management of Vietnam’s forestry sector, FLEGT licensing would contribute to increase the credibility of Vietnam’s timber processing industry not only in the EU but also in other export markets, which are seeing increasing demand for legal timber.

“The VPA/FLECT is a strong indication of Vietnam’s 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 which signed the VPA/FLECT with the EU, after Indonesia.

He said that Vietnam’s export of timber products to the EU is expected to see strong growth when the agreement enters into force, adding that the EU will continue to provide supports to Vietnam in developing VNTLAS and FLECT licensing.

The both sides launched the VPA/FLEGT negotiation in October 2010 and started the negotiation process from November 2011. Over more than six years, on 19 October 2018, in Brussels, the agreement was signed.

Vietnam was exporting 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.