Thailand to start VPA negotiations with the EU
Thailand will soon begin negotiating a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union.
Thailand is the fifth country in Asia to negotiate a VPA with the EU. As Thailand prepares, it has established a National FLEGT Negotiation Committee and officials of both sides have met informally.
‘Thailand's willingness to start VPA negotiations is great,' said Alexander Hinrichs, EFI's regional advisor who has been closely involved in the lead-up to the negotiations. ‘Thailand has a strategic position in the Mekong region and is an important player within ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). The VPA process can not only help Thailand address issues of timber legality within its borders, but also within the Mekong region and beyond.'
Thailand is a regional manufacturing hub for forest products and the world's largest producer of rubberwood timber grown on plantations. The country exports US$3 billion in forest products annually and the EU is an important market. Approximately one third of Thailand's forest product exports go to markets that require proof of legal origin.
VPAs are underpinned by strong timber legality assurance systems to ensure that timber and timber product exports to the EU come from legal sources. A country that has a VPA and an operational FLEGT-licensing system based on that agreement can issue FLEGT licences. Timber and timber products verified as legal receive a FLEGT licence. The agreement also helps timber-exporting countries improve their forest governance by increasing public participation in the forest sector and by reducing illegal logging.
For timber businesses, FLEGT-licensed timber offers an advantage in the European market because all timber products with a FLEGT licence automatically comply with the EU Timber Regulation. This means that European importers do not need to exercise further due diligence measures.