The Lao PDR is ready for the first face-to-face negotiation of the FLEGT VPA (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade – Voluntary Partnership Agreement) with the European Union (EU) next month, an official has said.
Director General of the Forest Inspection Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Mr Khamphout Phandanouvong confirmed at the annual planning FLEGT VPA workshop 2017 on Feb 8 that the first face-to-face negotiation of FLEGT VPA between Laos and EU has been scheduled for March 13-17 this year in Vientiane.
He explained that the FLEGT teamwork is currently focusing on determining the timber legality definition and implementing the timber legality assurance system because these are significant fundamentals of the first bilateral face-to-face negotiation.
To date, FLEGT teamwork has completed several meetings relating to the determination of the timber legality definition from six focal areas of national production forests, infrastructure areas, confiscated timber, village forests, plantation forests, and imported timber, which has now progressed by 70 per cent.
Meanwhile, a drafting of the structure of the timber legality assurance system has been completed.
Mr Khamphout, who is also the Head of the National Support and Development Committee, noted that after completing the first negotiation, Laos will finish its fourth video conference, the first draft of supply chain control, and the first draft of the verification system. It will hold the second face-to-face negotiation and the fifth video conference later this year.
After that, Laos will certify the final timber legality definition, the supply chain control and the verification system at the end of 2017 before signing the FLEGT VPA in 2018.
In 2003, the EU published the FLEGT action plan to help combat illegal logging in countries from which it imports timber. A key element of the action plan is a voluntary scheme to ensure that only legally harvested timber is imported into the EU from countries agreeing to take part in this scheme.
During the initial stage of the Lao EU-FLEGT process, three pilot provinces of Laos were selected including Xayaboury, Khammuan and Attapeu.
More than 100 representatives from government agencies, the National Assembly, the timber sector, academia and civil society organisations attended the workshop which was chaired by Vice Attapeu Governor, Mr Soukamay Chanthamath.
Source: Lao News Agency