A workshop was launched in Hanoi on August 23 to help Vietnamese timber suppliers update with revisions of the Lacey Act of the US , which is currently Vietnam’s largest furniture trader.

“Supplementary articles of the Lacey Act, dated May 2008, provide challenges and also opportunities for Vietnam to better improve its management of forest, timber import and processing,” Ha Cong Tuan, Deputy Director General Vietnam Directorate of Forestry said in his opening speech of the Legality Training Workshop.

By bettering its management, Vietnam aims to sustain and expand its share of the US furniture market, Tuan noted, emphasising that, “ Vietnam considers the US furniture market a high priority”.

In 2009, Vietnam earned 1.2 billion USD from the US furniture market, or 44 percent of its timber export value.

As new product declarations under the Lacey Act are enforced from September, a growing number of US-based forest products importers will seek assurance from their suppliers that products they source have been legally produced.

This means they must be able to demonstrate that the timber has been harvested, possessed, transported, sold and exported without breaking any relevant laws in the country where the tree was grown, even if it was processed in another country.

Combating timber trafficking was also a highlight of the workshop, which brought together representatives from Government, the forestry sector and suppliers of forest products.

“Cooperating on tackling illegal logging will help Vietnamese producers, because as demand increases, Vietnam can gain market access by increasing its supply of legal timber products,” said Francis Donovan, Mission Director of USAID Vietnam, which is among the organisers of the event.

He underscored his country’s commitment to working with Vietnamese producers in the supply of legal and sustainable products that meet international market standards.

Tuan affirmed that Vietnam has cooperated with many countries around the world and made governmental-level commitments to intensify its forest management to prevent illegal logging.

He cited the country’s participation in the ASEAN action plan to adapt to the EU Action Plan for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT).

“Illegal logging and timber trade not only undermine conservation, they also lead to reduced profitability of legal trade, loss of foreign revenue and currency exchange, uncollected forest-related taxes and depleted forest resources and services,” said Chen Hin Keong, the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC) Global Forest Trade Programme Head.

Vietnam has increased its forest coverage from 34.3 percent in 2000 to 39.6 percent in 2009. It is among the world’s top five in terms of increased forest coverage and top ten in terms of furniture exports.

As an exporter of up to 90 percent of its wooden furniture, the country is set to rake in 3 billion USD from furniture this year.

The workshop was co-organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Two similar workshops will be held, in Quy Nhon, the central province of Binh Dinh, on August 25, and in Ho Chi Minh City on August 27./.