(Vientiane Times, 3 Aug 2017)
Lao Govt, EU negotiate to promote legal timber trade
The Lao timber sector has taken a further step towards improved accessing to the EU market, where the import and sale of timber obtained through illegal logging is prohibited by law by making available a revised definition for legal timber.
T o achieve this, the government has now prepared for the second negotiation with the EU to promote legal timber trade on forest law enforcement, governance and trade (FLEGT) voluntary partnership agreement (VPA).
The issue was discussed at a stakeholder workshop in Vientiane on 2 Aug 2017, in the presence of representatives from the government, civil society organisations and the wood processing industry in the preparation of the negotiation with the EU on an FLEGT voluntary partnership agreement.
The meeting's aim was to update the technical working group on the progress of Timber Legality Definition (TLD) development and link to the roadmap between Laos and EU FLEGT voluntary partnership agreement.
Another objective was to present and discuss the future developed draft TLDs on forest production, conversion areas, plantations, and FLEGT's obligation before a new draft TLD is submitted to the EU.
One major goal was to present options for applying Remote-Sensing technologies for the monitoring of conservation areas.
A concrete definition of what legal timber is provided more clarity on the work towards sustainable forest management and good governance, subsequently resulting in an increase of forest cover to 70 percent as set in the forest strategy 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's Director General of Forestry Department Mr Sousath Sayakoummane said.
Via the Lao-EU FLEGT process, and particularly through improved timber flow monitoring in the pilot provinces, we can also contribute to the overall objectives of the Prime Minister Order No. 15.
Laos is engaged in a VPA process with the EU which aims to combat illegal logging and associated trade, an expert at the EU FLEGT Facility European Forest Institute Mr Tim Dawson said. The FLEGT VPA process contributes to strengthening governance in the forest sector which also improves the foundations for sustainable forest management.
Once the FLEGT VPA is fully operational, like in Indonesia which commenced its FLEGT Licensing system in 2016, a country's timber products will be in full compliance with the EU Timber Regulation which prohibits the placement of illegal timber on the EU market.
Initiated by the Lao government and supported by various national and international stakeholders, the Lao-EU FLEGT process aims to promote good forest governance and eliminate illegal logging activities.
Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs), bilateral trade agreements between the EU and a timber-exporting country outside the EU, are central to this scheme. Among other things, VPAs address illegal logging and foster trade in legal timber products.
Under the VPA, Laos will go on to develop and implement a so-called Timber Legality Assurance System, which will be tested in the pilot provinces Khammuan and Attapeu prior to upscaling throughout the country.