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VN pushes for forest law pact with EU

Update: April, 19/2014 - 09:58
A worker checks the production process of wood at a company in Ha Noi's Phu Nghia Industrial Zone. Viet Nam wants to export more wooden products to the EU market. — VNA/VNS Photo Danh Lam

HA NOI (VNS)— Viet Nam wants to sign the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade / Voluntary Partnerships Agreement (FLEGT VPA) with the European Union (EU) by October.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan said at a national consultant workshop on the FLEGT VPA on April 17 that negotiations for the agreement should be finalised to facilitate the trade of Vietnamese wooden products entering the EU market.

The FLEGT Action Plan, approved by the EU in 2003, came into effect in March 2013, as one of the EU's responses to international concerns about illegal logging and trading.

The plan sets out measures to combat illegal logging and trading.

The implementation of the FLEGT VPA aims to establish control and licensing procedures in timber producing and processing countries to ensure that only products made from legally harvested timber enter the EU.

Products licensed the FLEGT or Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are considered to be legally harvested.

Viet Nam and the EU began formal negotiations for the bilateral FLEGT VPA in 2010, and they expect to sign the agreement this year, Tuan said.

He added that the agreement would allow Vietnamese timber exporters to apply for the FLEGT licence with Viet Nam authorities that would prove the legality of products before exporting to the EU.

"The move would help the exporters avoid situations where they have to bring products back home if they fail to prove the legality of products to the EU administrations," he noted.

Exporters could opt either to apply for the licences in Viet Nam or fulfil accountability in the EU, he added, noting that domestic supervisory and licensing were expected to reduce costs for exporters.

Head of Viet Nam's Standing Office for the FLEGT and Lacey Act, under the agriculture ministry, Nguyen Tuong Van said that Viet Nam's timber export industry had shown strong development in the last decade with an yearly growth of 16 per cent.

Last year, it posted a $5.5-billion export turnover in timber products, having exported to over 100 countries, and the EU was one of its leading export markets.

Van commented that Viet Nam's timber export industry faced many difficulties, including low value addition due to high woodchip export ratio, mainly indirect export through the EU importers and non-trademarked products.

Vietnamese timber enterprises imported 40-50 per cent of raw materials, she noted, and complicated domestic timber flows and different timber sources made it difficult to control illegal logging, making Viet Nam a high-risk exporter.

"This fact has urged the country's action plan to adapt, improve awareness and develop a legal frame work and timber legality assurance system," she added.

These negotiations would help Viet Nam maintain and expand markets, increase competitiveness and international integration, improve sustainable forest development and forest governance, she commented.

Head of the EU delegation to Viet Nam Ambassador Franz Jessen said that the agreement could help speed up the institutional reform of the forest industry law enforcement in Viet Nam as well as improve national image and trademarks for the timber industry.

It would help ensure that Vietnamese timber and products could continue to access the EU and other markets, he remarked.

Viet Nam Timber and Forest Product Association vice chairman Nguyen Ton Quyen said that improved awareness and understanding about the FLEGT VPA was necessary for forest growers, wooden-furniture producing villages and small processors and dealers.

He added that the implementation of the FLEGT VPA would involve multiple ministries, agencies and organisations for evidence in field, including customs, taxes, export permit and product flow.

He urged co-operation among them to ensure a smooth procedure that would save time and costs for enterprises. — VNS

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