Making furniture in Thuong Tin, Hanoi (Source: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – Vietnam and the EU have just concluded negotiations for a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), according to the EU delegation to Vietnam on May 16.

The agreement is expected to improve forest management, deter illegal logging, and boost trade of Vietnamese legal timber products with the EU and other markets.

After nearly six years of negotiation, the agreement, recently initialed by Astrid Schomaker, Director for Global Sustainable Development at the European Commission's Directorate General for the Environment, and Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan, marks the official completion of the negotiations.

The agreement is now under legal review and shall be ratified by the two sides before becoming effective.

In order to implement the VPA, Vietnam will develop a timber legality assurance system (VNTLAS) in order to ensure all timber and timber products from a partner country comply with the law of that country.

The agreement also requires establishment of independent petition and evaluation mechanisms, as well as commitments among concerned partners in implementing and public disclosure of information.

A joint committee will supervise the VPA implementation. The two sides have also agreed on key factors needed in preparation for the implementation of the agreement.

Once the VPA is fully implemented, all timber and timber products destined for the EU market will be required to be enclosed with FLEGT licences to prove their legality.

Vietnam will begin issuing FLEGT licences when the timber legality assurance system has been successfully tested to ensure that all commitments as described in the VPA have been satisfied and in line with the criteria stated in the agreement’s appendixes.

Besides economic, social and environmental benefits, the FLEGT licences are expected to facilitate wood exporters’ activities.

Vietnam is among 15 countries negotiating the VPA with the EU.

Indonesia was the first Asian country to initial a VPA, with FLEGT licencing beginning on November 15, 2016.-VNA