Laos is seeking increased cooperation with Vietnam in forestry, especially the processing and export of furniture, a Lao forestry official has said.

Sousath Sayakoummane, Head of the Office of the Lao Agriculture and Forestry Ministry, signalled his country’s purpose at talks with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) in Hanoi on Mar. 2.

In 2010, Vietnam raked in 3.4 billion USD from furniture exports. The country, however, imported 80 percent of the timber, mostly from Laos , for making furniture.

At the talks, both sides exchanged experiences from the negotiation for the Volunteer Partnership Agreement (VPA) and the implementation of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan endorsed by the EU in 2003.

The officials shared information relating to their forest produce export and import policies in a bid to better the system of tracking down the legal source of forest products.

Head of the FLEGT Office in Vietnam , Nguyen Tuong Van said both Vietnam and Laos needed to perfect their legal systems with strong tools to monitor the enforcement of laws in the forestry field.

The EU had already signed VPA/FLEGT agreements with three African countries and was negotiating agreements with Malaysia and Indonesia .

Vietnam and Laos have announced that they began VPA/FLEGT talks with the EU.

FLEGT, which aimed to combat illegal logging and related trades, will take effect in January, 2012./.