H.E.Mr Giorgio Aliberti, Ambassador of the European Union to Vietnam takes note of the completion of the Government Decree on the Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) of Viet Nam, which aims at implementing the annex with the same title of the EU – Viet Nam Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (FLEGT). Ambassador Aliberti trusts in Viet Nam’s continued commitment to the VPA, which entered into force last June, and active pursuit of the VPA’s objective to manage all types of forests sustainably and provide a legal framework aimed at ensuring the legality of the production of timber and timber products, irrespective of whether the timber originates from within or outside of Vietnam.
The preparation of the VNTLAS decree provided for consultation with VPA stakeholders, including the VPA multi-stakeholder core group in 2019, and the EU is grateful for the opportunities for dialogue, which continued during and beyond the VPA Joint Implementation Committee meeting in June 2020. The VNTLAS decree addresses important elements of the VPA related to the import and export of timber and timber products. It also provides the basis for an Organisation Classification System, albeit one specific to enterprises engaged in processing and exporting timber, and thus lacking some core elements foreseen in the VPA. Such a system covering importer and domestic producer organisations alike is foreseen in the VPA as a tool to facilitate legality assurance throughout the supply chain in Viet Nam and is a core element of the VPA.
The decree appears to reflect the import controls committed to in the VPA. The EU looks forward to seeing how these will be developed in line with the VPA, following the joint coordination steps foreseen therein, and Viet Nam then puts these controls into practice including with the specification of adequate, proportionate and dissuasive administrative or criminal sanctions to address violations.
The decree also points to the need for establishing a FLEGT licensing scheme. However, such a scheme could only become operational once a fully functioning VNTLAS in line with the VPA has been developed, implemented and jointly assessed as fulfilling all VPA requirements.
In this context, Ambassador Aliberti recalls “The scope of the VPA extends to all operators, involved in all parts of VNTLAS supply chains and for timber destined to all domestic and export markets. As such the decree is a step towards these commitments, but should its scope not be aligned with the VPA by the time the Decree becomes applicable, it might negatively affect Vietnamese exporters.”
The EU looks forward to seeing how Vietnam will in future extend the scope to address legality, not only at the point of import and export, but importantly for operators involved in harvesting, trading and processing of domestic as well as imported timber, and for products destined to all markets.
Vietnam is among the few countries that have ratified a VPA and are actively developing legislation which will provide the basis for systems and capacities to be developed to assure the legality of the production of timber and thus take the necessary steps to underpin the eventual FLEGT licensing scheme. Operators exporting to the European Economic Area (EU, Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein) from countries with an operating FLEGT licensing scheme, like so far only Indonesia, will benefit, since FLEGT licenced shipments will no longer be subject to due diligence requirements of the European Timber Regulation. Several other countries, to which Viet Nam is exporting, also already expressed interest in an effective VNTLAS, as it would facilitate imports for their operators, as well.
The EU looks forward to continuing to engage with Vietnam during the development and implementation of this and further regulations as needed to fulfil all requirements of the VPA.
The next join technical meeting on next steps for the implementation of the VPA is foreseen to take place on 2nd October 2020 at the office of the EU Delegation to Vietnam