At the signing ceremony (Photo: VNA)

Brussels (VNA)
 – Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc witnessed the signing of the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT-VPA) between Vietnam and the European Union, which aims to fight illegal logging, in Brussels on October 19 on the sidelines of the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit.

Vietnamese Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong, Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz, and Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini inked the document.

The core of the deal is the Vietnam Timber Legality Assurance System (VNTLAS) which ensures that wood and timber products of Vietnam in the EU have legal origins.

The issuance of FLEGT licences is only applicable for the EU market, while the VNTLAS will cover both domestic and export markets.

The FLEGT-VPA covers all exports to the EU, with five specific products defined in the FLEGT Regulation of 2015 - logs, sawn timber, railway sleepers, plywood and veneer - as well as a number of other timber products such as wood in chips or particles, parquet flooring, particle board and wooden furniture.

Addressing the ceremony, Federica Mogherini said that the signing of the deal is the start of an important partnership through which Vietnam and the EU will team up in dealing with illegal logging and consequences of the activities.

She said that the EU welcomes Vietnam’s preparations for the implementation of the FLEGT-VPA as well as progress in strengthening the control of imported wood.

However, it is necessary for the country to work harder as the control of legacy of imported wood will play a significant role in fully conducting the FLEGT-VPA and help ensure that wood and timber products that Vietnam ships to the EU has legal origins.

Meanwhile, Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong said that the trading of good and timber products in a legal and sustainable manner is suitable to development goals and efforts of Vietnam to protect the forest and minimise climate change.

Vietnam has strong and developing wood processing industry with an important role in the world market, he said, adding that the business community and non-governmental organisations of Vietnam support the FLEGT-VPA and engage in the completion of the relevant legal systems.

In reality, FLEGT-VPA commitments have been included in the Vietnam Forestry Law which will take effect on January 1, 2019. The law prohibits the import of illegal timber to Vietnam.

Cuong also stated that Vietnam has prepared plans for the implementation of FLEGT-VPA with the involvement of many parties.-VNA