18 April 2008, Hanoi, Vietnam: Summary report.
An important aspect of international efforts to combat illegal logging and associated forest crime is building markets for legal and sustainable timber products. The measures being developed for this purpose include private sector codes of conduct, green procurement policies and various timber certification and licensing systems. The European Union’s response to illegal logging centres on its Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. This aims to combat illegal logging through forest governance reform, improved transparency, information exchange and capacity building. A key element of the Action Plan is developing a licensing system for legally produced timber. This will be built up through a series of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) between the EU and major timberproducing countries, each setting out the actions and commitments of both parties to tackle illegal logging.
The current emphasis on markets for legal and sustainable timber presents Vietnam with both an opportunity and a threat. Vietnam’s fastgrowing wooden furniture export industry has one of the largest shares of FSC-certified wood in east Asia, and the Vietnamese government aims to certify 30% of its production forests by 2020. Currently most certified wood must be imported, however, driving up production costs. Limited domestic production means that the timber industry as a whole depends heavily on imports, and ensuring the legality and sustainability of this supply will present a major challenge.
As a timber importer and processor, Vietnam differs from the timber-producing countries negotiating VPAs. This puts it outside the scope of current VPAs, which focus on timber exports. Nevertheless the intended outcomes of VPAs (improved forest governance, improved market access, and so on) are still highly relevant to national policy objectives, and the government of Vietnam is following developments in other countries with interest. It could join the process at a later stage, though any agreement would require different policy solutions from those of VPAs with timberproducing countries. Any solutions should also address forest protection in countries supplying Vietnam with timber, for example by encouraging Vietnamese importers and processors to adopt responsible purchasing policies (such as the policy of Vietnam’s Forest and Trade Network).
The EC–Vietnam round table aimed to launch a dialogue on these solutions by giving key stakeholders the opportunity to learn about changing timber market trends and their implications, and to explore ways of meeting demands for legal and sustainable timber products.