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Recognising Indonesian V-legal documents in China: Exploring the options

Recognising Indonesian V-legal documents in China: Exploring the options

Under its Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union, Indonesia issues export licences attesting to the legality of its timber shipments to non-EU markets. These “V-Legal Documents” build on the same procedures followed in issuing Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licences to the EU market. 

China does not however currently recognise V-Legal Documents as proof of legality for timber and timber products that it imports from Indonesia.


Furniture products are packed in warehouses ready for export to the foreign market by Murdani Usman, CIFOR


Yet according to new research by the Chinese Academy of Forestry (CAF), doing so could pose opportunities for China and Chinese companies, along with some challenges. 

CAF’s Research Institute of Forestry Policy and Information explored the recognition of Indonesian V-Legal Documents in China in a study undertaken between 2018 and 2019. The research is part of the work of the Bilateral Coordination Mechanism (BCM) on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance, which frames the collaboration between the EU and China on combating illegal logging and associated trade globally. The study built on a series of workshops facilitated by the EU FLEGT Facility in China.

Benefits identified by the research include simplifying due diligence for Chinese companies that exercise it, and promoting legal trade between China and Indonesia, and between China and international markets. It would also set a precedent supporting FLEGT. 

The study was conducted before China amended its Forest Law in 2020, prohibiting the purchase, transport and processing of illegal wood.

Next steps recommended by the study are a pilot project to explore how Chinese companies could integrate V-Legal Documents into their due diligence system; facilitating cooperation between Chinese and Indonesian industry associations; strengthening cooperation between the Chinese and Indonesian Governments in implementing their MoU on combatting illegal forest products trade; and raising Chinese company awareness of V-Legal Documents.