FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements: News from Africa - Asia - Latin America:
Cameroon and the European Commission have agreed upon the text of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). The initialling of the Agreement is expected to take place in the second half of February. Subsequently, Cameroon as well as the EU will start their ratification processes to gain legislative approval for the legally binding status of the Agreement. In the EU, the Lisbon Treaty’s entry into force has slightly changed the process of ratification with the Council’s and Parliament’s involvement. The Cameroon Agreement will be the 3rd VPA following successful conclusions of VPAs in Ghana and the Republic of Congo.
Central African Republic:
Negotiations are ongoing with CAR. Monthly technical negotiation session have been hold since October 2009. The upcoming session is planned early March. Legality definition, product scope and legality assurance system are on the agenda of this session.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):
one day workshop was recently held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo on February 1, 2010 titled Challenges to Forest Sector Governance in the DRC and Priority Actions to Consider with regards to a FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). This workshop was the second in a series informing Congolese stakeholders about FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements as part of the European Union’s FLEGT Action Plan. There is increasing interest on the part of the Congolese government, private sector and other forest stakeholders to learn more about FLEGT VPAs and how they can be a tool to help address some of the challenges they are facing in the forest sector. The workshop was well attended with over 60 participants discussing the different elements of a VPA and how such an Agreement could help DRC improve forest sector governance.
Gabon’s Prime Minister recently requested the launch of formal VPA negotiations between his country and the EU. The launch and first negotiation session is scheduled to take place in Libreville in the week of March 15.
The VPA Secretariat was officially put into operation in October 2009. Next formal negotiations will take place in early March in Brussels. They aim to discuss the Legality Assurance System (LAS) as central elements of a VPA for Liberia, strategy for supporting legal reform and development (especially on community right regulations, chainsaw logging), international market trends and recent EU policies and next steps (roadmap, prepare aide memoire and public report of negotiation session)
Rep. of Congo (Brazzaville):
Congo is currently implementing the VPA concluded in May 2009. One of the major efforts is to develop a national traceability system to capture the supply chains of timber products for domestic and all export markets. The system is being developed in a close cooperation with the government of Congo and EU Delegation in the country.
On 25 January, EFI’s FLEGT Asia Programme, funded by the Commission, was officially launched with regional headquarters based in Kuala Lumpur. Negotiations on VPAs with Malaysia and Indonesia have been underway since 2007. The EU now aims to expand the broader FLEGT Programme to the rest of the Asian region. The FLEGT Asia programme implemented by EFI will primarily be carried out in the Mekong region, in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand.
In the framework of VPA negotiations, the development of an Indonesian Timber Legality Assurance System is currently being trialled. Indonesia was one of the first countries to develop a legality definition through a multi-stakeholder consultation process. With the adoption of this system, discussion with the EU has resumed in an attempt to assess the compatibility of the Indonesian system and the EU FLEGT technical requirements. The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry has convened four multi-stakeholder Working Groups to further develop the new legality verification system. The outcomes will be discussed in the next EU-Indonesia VPA Technical Working Group, planned to take place in Jakarta in March 2010.
Malaysia’s VPA negotiations appear to be entering their final stages. After the discussion of the legal text of the VPA and associated annexes through a Technical working Group in early December, Malaysia is currently going through a process of internal consultation. It is expected that discussions with the EU will resume in March 2010.
The Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has set up a FLEGT interagency group and is currently planning the start of a consultation process involving private sector representatives and civil society to discuss the possible implications of concluding a VPA. The government is responding to a scoping study conducted by ProForest, funded by EFI’s FLEGT Asia programme, supported by the EU, and Vietnamese officials and experts. The Vietnamese team had been on a study tour to Europe to familiarise themselves with changing EU market conditions for timber and timber products and the principles of the FLEGT Action plan. Vietnam and the EU had agreed to set up a bilateral VPA Technical Working Group in 2008. As a major importer of timber, legality verification of raw material sources in Vietnam will be essential to the credibility of the Legality Assurance System.
The EU FLEGT Facility has conducted its first exploratory mission to Latin America on behalf of the Commission. Therewith, the Commission has responded to the invitation of the Ecuadorian Government to provide more information on VPAs. In the framework of the mission, particularly the private sector showed interest and wanted the country to enter into a VPA. Ecuador exports VPA core products mainly to the US and India; only 5 % of the total estimated export volume of these products went to the EU in 2007. However, the EU accounted for around 25 % of the value of total exports in the same year. With the extension of the US Lacey Act to exclude illegal timber products from the US market and buyers requesting for legality verification more often, the Ecuadorian timber hopes that a VPA could prepare the ground for increased timber exports in the EU and might also ease trade with the US.