Vietnam looks to increase timber exports to EU
Vietnam is expected to boost its wood exports when the Vietnam-European Union Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA/FLEGT) takes effect, said Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan.
The Vietnam News Agency quoted Tuan at a press conference with Vice President of the European Parliament Heidi Hautala in Hanoi City on January 7 as saying that the agreement will help strengthen forest governance, address illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products from Vietnam to the EU.
Vietnam has so far shipped wooden furniture to 28 European Union countries, mostly in the category of outdoor furniture. The EU is the fourth largest importer of Vietnamese wood products, comprising 13%-17% of wooden exports in total, he said.
He added that the bloc has significant potential for Vietnamese wooden products and Vietnam will see more favorable conditions for increasing its exports if it adopts the VPA/FLEGT seriously.
According to the senior government official, transparency in the origins of imported wood and the control of supply chains from other countries have been among Vietnam’s priorities over the past six years of VPA/FLEGT negotiations.
On the basis of agreements with the European Union and other partners on wood origin control, Vietnam recently issued the Forestry Law, launched the Vietnam Timber Legality Assurance System for the first time and hiked penalties for violations.
The aim is to ensure its exports of timber and timber products come from legal sources, verifying that both domestic and imported timber have been legally harvested and traded.
Control over the origins of wood to ensure their legality is not only a regulation of the European Union but also a desire of Vietnam to ensure the sustainable development of the sector, he stressed.
Meanwhile, Hautala said all wood and wooden furniture exported from Vietnam to the European Union must have FLEGT licenses.
The European Union has signed the agreement with 16 countries. The VPA/FLEGT is the second signed by the European Union in Asia, following the closure of its deal with Indonesia, she remarked.
She added that the European Union wants to eliminate illegal wood exploitation and to satisfy the increasing demand for wooden furniture among European consumers.
Vietnam should make every effort to ensure its accountability, she noted, adding that the European Parliament will pay special attention to the country’s preparations for the execution of the agreement.
Tuan said that Vietnam has approved a plan to execute the agreement, including preparing the legal paperwork and strengthening the supervisory role of nongovernmental organizations, professional organizations and other concerned parties during the process.
From January 7 to 9, Hautala is scheduled to make working trips to the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai and HCMC to prepare for the submission of the agreement to the European Parliament for approval.
After six years of negotiations, the agreement was signed on the sidelines of the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, on October 19.
The agreement will enter into force after each side ratifies it, as part of their internal procedures. It covers both imported timber, a major source of raw materials for Vietnam, and all domestic sources in Vietnam, including natural and plantation forests; confiscated timber under specific conditions; timber from home gardens, farms and scattered trees; and rubberwood.