An overview of working session between Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong and Vice President of the European Parliament Heidi Hautala (Source: nongnghiep.vn)

Hanoi (VNA) – Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong had a bilateral meeting in Hanoi on January 7 with Vice President of the European Parliament (EP) Heidi Hautala who is leading an EP working delegation to Vietnam from January 7-9.

At the event, Minister Cuong spoke highly of the cooperation developments between Vietnam and the EU, particularly in terms of investment.

In the field of sustainable development, the EU is considered Vietnam’s top development partner with the two main pillars of maritime economy and forest development.

The EU issued a “yellow card” warning for Vietnam in 2017 for illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing; along with nine recommendations to help the country develop more sustainable fisheries.

Cuong said that after the EU made the nine recommendations, Vietnam was quick to complete its national institutions and laws, including the new Law on Fisheries, which has put the nine recommendations into a solid legal framework.

Vietnam has also paid attention to forestry development. Currently, the country has 14 million hectares of forests, with forest coverage reaching 41.65 percent – a high rate both regionally and globally.

The country is building up its forestry economy with the participation of some 4,500 relevant enterprises. Last year, the sector enjoyed an export turnover of over 9 billion USD, he stated.

However, Cuong noted that the sector is still facing several weaknesses, including low productivity, small number of enterprises participating in the forestry chain, and the relatively small area of forests that have received Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) management certificates.

The signing of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (VPA/FLEGT) between Vietnam and the EU offers a chance for the Southeast Asian nation to restructure the sector towards a transparent production chain, from materials to processing and trading, Cuong stressed.

Heidi Hautala said that EU consumers are paying greater attention to the origin of products. Therefore, the responsibility and role of the private enterprises are becoming more and more important.

The VPA/FLEGT with Vietnam is the second agreement the EU has signed in Asia, following a pact with Indonesia, she stated, adding that this is an important step by the EU towards building a broader strategy to intensify biodiversity and sustainable development in Asia, as well as fighting illegal timber exploitation and trading.

She said that the agreement will encourage transparency and have pervasive effects on the production chain with the EU and nations around the world as the EU has signed similar agreements with 16 other countries.

The EU is working to soon ratify the agreement with Vietnam, she added. –VNA