Illustrative photo (Source: VNA)

Belgium (VNA) – Vietnam and the EU on May 11 concluded six years of negotiations for a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT).

The agreement aims to ensure that all timber and timber products destined for the EU market from a partner country comply with the law of that country.

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

Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan and Astrid Schomaker, Director for Global Sustainable Development at the European Commission's Directorate General for the Environment, have initialled the pact’s content, which will undergo further legal examination before being translated into the EU’s official languages and Vietnamese.

Both sides have agreed on key factors needed in preparation for the implementation of the agreement.

Key elements of the VPA include commitments to legal reforms, public disclosure of information and improvements to forest governance; and a framework for overseeing, monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the VPA and its economic, social and environmental impacts.

Following the conclusion of negotiations, Vietnam and EU will sign and ratify the VPA so that their commitments will become legally binding.

A Vietnam-EU Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) will oversee the implementation of the VPA and respond to concerns as they arise.

In order to issue FLEGT licences as required by the VPA, Vietnam will develop a timber legality assurance system (VNTLAS).

The country will begin issuing FLEGT licences when the timber legality assurance system has been successfully tested, and when Vietnam and the EU are satisfied that it functions as described in the VPA.

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