The 8th Joint Expert Meeting and 4th Negotiation Session on the Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA/FLEGT) between Viet Nam and the European Union (EU) took place in Ha Noi between the 20th and 24th of October 2014. Viet Nam’s delegation led by Mr Cao Chi Cong (Deputy Director General of the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development), is composed of representatives from MARD, Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT), Ministry of Finance (MOF) and Customs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Viet Nam Timber and Forest Products Association (VIFORES). The European Union (EU)’s delegation headed by Ms. Astrid Schomaker, (Head of Unit on Global Sustainability, Trade and Multilateral Agreements, Directorate General for Environment), consists of representatives of the European Commission, the EU Delegation to Viet Nam and European Forest Institute experts.
The Government of Viet Nam and EU entered into negotiation on VPA/FLEGT in October 2010. The aim of this Agreement will be to ensure that all timber and timber products that are exported from Viet Nam to EU are legally sourced and legally produced. It is intended that once the Agreement comes into force, Viet Nam will implement a licensing scheme, covering timber from all sources, that attests to the legality of timber exports from Viet Nam to EU. FLEGT licensed timber and timber products from Viet Nam will be considered legal and as such not subject to the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR 995) which has entered into force on 3 March, 2013.
Since the start of the negotiation, a considerable amount of technical work has been undertaken to discuss Annexes of the Agreement, including the timber product coverage, the scope of the legality definition, the timber legality assurance system, public information disclosure, functions of Joint Implementation Committee. Seven expert meetings and three negotiation sessions have been held in both Ha Noi and Brussels
During three days of technical discussion and two days of negotiation, both parties have made progress on key issues, including the timber product coverage, the scope of the legality definition, the structure of Viet Nam’s Timber Legality Assurance System (VNTLAS) and public information disclosure
During the 4th Negotiation Session, both parties reconfirmed their commitment to the principles that will underlie the Agreement as well as to conducting relevant follow-up and technical discussions. The parties agreed on a roadmap for the remaining stages of the negotiation, with the aim of concluding the negotiation on the Voluntary Partnership Agreement by at the end of 2015.
At the end of the negotiation session, both sides co-organized multi-stakeholder meeting and press conference to announce main results of the negotiation session with the attendance of more than 40 organizations representing timber procession enterprises, local and international non-governmental organizations, and mass media agencies.
In 2003 the EU adopted its Action Plan for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) to address the problem of illegal logging and related trade. On 20 October 2010, the European Parliament and European Commission issued the Regulation 995/2010 that stipulates the obligations of operators who place timber and timber products on the EU market. It has entered into force on 3 March 2013.
A Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) is a legally binding trade agreement between the European Union and a timber-producing country outside the EU. The purpose of a VPA is to en¬sure that timber and timber products exported to the EU come from legal sources. The agreements also help timber-exporting countries stop illegal logging by improving regulation and governance of the forest sector.
Six countries (Indonesia, Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia, Republic of Congo and Central African Republic) have signed a VPA with the EU and are currently developing the systems needed to control, verify and license legal timber. These countries are known as ‘VPA partner countries'. Nine more countries including Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia are in negotiations with the EU. Another eleven countries in Africa, Asia and Central and South America have expressed an interest in VPAs.
(Source: Department of Science, Technology and International Cooperation, VNFOREST)