Thien Nhien – Striving to become a woodwork manufacturing center of the world, Vietnam is endeavoring to localize regulations to be able to grant FLEGT licenses, paving the way for woodworks to penetrate the EU and other markets.

In October 2010, the EU released a Timber Regulation with the aim of preventing trade of illegally harvested timber and products made of timber.

Importers have the responsibility of explaining the origin of timber in order to minimize the risk of illegal timber trading.

At present, Vietnam’s woodwork exports to the EU have to observe the EU Timber Regulation and this will continue until Vietnam’s FLEGT licensing mechanism becomes operational.

The Timber Regulation recognizes the legality of FLEGT-licensed timber and timber products that have been verified through the control systems of several partner countries in VPA/FLEGT (Voluntary Partnership Agreement/ Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade).

Licensed woodwork products will have to give an explanation as stipulated by the Timber Regulation. VPA/FLEGT took effect on June 1, 2019. Vietnam is localizing the regulations so as to be able to soon grant FLEGT licenses.

According to experts, the most important action in implementing VPA/FLEGT is the localization of regulations.

Vietnam has proposed not to apply the agreement directly, but through additional issuance of a decree on VNTLAS (Vietnam Timber Legality Assurance System), which focuses on timber import control, institution, and enterprise classification, export verification, assessment of VNTLAS readiness, and FLEGT licensing.

Van said the draft decree has been submitted to the government for approval. If things go smoothly, the decree would be promulgated in September 2020.

After the decree takes effect, import management will be implemented in accordance with the decree, while the classification of enterprises will be implemented six months later.

It is expected that Vietnam would be able to operate VNTLAS by early 2021, and the first FLEGT license would be granted in late 2021 or early 2022.

According to VNForest, the EU, together with the US, China, Japan and South Korea, is an important market for Vietnam. It mostly consumes high-value indoor and outdoor wooden products, worth $1-1.2 billion a year.

Asked about the opportunities for Vietnam’s wooden products with VPA/FLEGT, Ngo Sy Hoai, deputy chair of the Vietnam Timber and Forestry Products (Vinafores), said that exports to the EU won’t skyrocket, but the export value will increase.

The signing and implementation of VPA/FLEGT will help Vietnam’s woodwork industry increase its prestige and win the confidence of other choosy markets such as the US and Japan.

Some experts said the VPA/FLEGT is not an obstacle to Vietnam’s woodwork industry. The biggest beneficiaries will be 3,000 processing and export companies, 324 woodwork craft villages, and 1.4 million forest planting households. 

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