In making the announcement, Nguyen Tuong Van, director of the government, private sector and civil society interagency group negotiating the agreement said she expects that as a result of the VPA timber exports to the EU market will ratchet up dramatically.
The overall objective of the trade deal is to guarantee that all timber exports by Vietnam to any of the 28 countries comprising the EU come from legal sources Van said.
The agreement delineates Vietnam’s laws related to environmental protection, logging rules, payment of fees, timber trade, transport regulation and property rights. Notably it also addresses the rights of communities whose livelihoods depend on forests.
The legal scheme provides Vietnamese relevant agencies shall verify timber and related products are sourced and produced legally and that the proper authorities shall issue a special license called a – FLEGT licence – for each consignment exported to the EU.
The license will provide evidence that the shipments are legally compliant with Vietnamese law and that adherence to the law has been verified. Once the VPA comes into effect no other unverified shipments from Vietnam to the EU will be allowed.
Any violators caught illegally exporting or attempting to circumvent the law and export timber products will be treated appropriately within the confines of the Vietnamese justice system and subject to the legal remedies as it so imposes— such as fines, imprisonment or other sanctions.
The VPA also ensures the EU will provide support to assist Vietnam implement it and once the system is put in place that the EU will only accept FLEGT-licensed timber shipments from Vietnam.
Most importantly the interagency group led by Ms Van has provided all forest stakeholders in Vietnam the opportunity to get involved in developing the national legality standards and to be part of the process reaching a consensus on forest rights during the negotiating process.
In addition, Ms Van stressed the VPA will help Vietnam expand its markets not only to the EU but other markets around the globe by improving governance and sustainability.
The VPA is bringing about changes in Vietnam's laws that are more consistent with those in the EU, US, Australia, and Japan thereby paving the way for expanded timber exports to all of these nations.
The VPA model is unique in the sense that it is not imposing any laws of the EU on Vietnam neither are there any international laws, courts or tribunals involved as there are in almost all other trade agreements.
The VPA model is fundamentally based on Vietnamese legal regulations and exporters must obtain a license from the appropriate government officials documenting their legal compliance prior to any shipment leaving the country.
It will help Vietnam’s exports because it heightens Vietnam’s international image and puts in place a sustainable industry of Vietnam’s own making that will allow for reduced tariffs into markets such as the US, Japan and Australia.
It is a way of reviving and reinvigorating the timber sector— by giving it privileged access to European markets and the opportunity to let the world know that Vietnam- a nation is serious about green and positioning itself as a leader in the movement.