More good news on VPAs – Vietnam and EU reach agreement in principle

Forest mapping during a field visit to Vietnam. Picture courtesy of EU FLEGT Facility, EFI.

After nearly six years of negotiations, Vietnam and the European Union have agreed in principle on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) this week. The Agreement aims to improve forest governance, address illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products from Vietnam to the EU. Both sides expect to ratify the agreement in 2017.

“Vietnam and the EU today celebrate a milestone in their cooperation in the global fight to end illegal logging,” said EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella in a press release issued today. “Now we must focus on implementation to ensure that the VPA delivers on its social, environmental and economic goals.” To implement the VPA, Vietnam will develop a timber legality assurance system and other reforms, including issuing legislation to ensure the legality of timber Vietnam imports for further processing. The European Commission has published a memo describing the VPA and timber legality assurance system.

“A key commitment is to establish a credible and robust system, which involves all stakeholders and includes effective mechanisms to detect violations and ensure law enforcement,” said Vella. “The EU will continue to support Vietnam’s efforts in this regard. We will be monitoring closely how the country works to implement the agreement.”

The VPA is expected to boost confidence in the legality of timber products exported by Vietnam, and deliver wider social and environmental benefits. An EU-Vietnam Joint Implementation Committee will oversee implementation of the VPA once it enters into force. Until then, key elements of the interim arrangements have been agreed that will help transition to the implementation phase. Click here for background information on the Vietnam VPA.

FLEGT VPA programme moving forward

The agreement in principle on the Vietnam-EU VPA marks another step forward in the EU’s ambitious FLEGT VPA programme. As recently as September 2016, the first VPA was fully implemented and approved with Indonesia, creating green lane access to the EU market for the country’s timber products. Indonesia has started issuing FLEGT licenses on 15 November. Hopes are high that Ghana will also complete VPA implementation next year. This would make Ghana the second country from which European importers can source wood and wood based products without exercising due diligence.