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EU and Thailand hold 2nd negotiation on legal timber trade agreement

EU and Thailand hold 2nd negotiation on legal timber trade agreement

Thailand and the European Union (EU) have held their second round of negotiations on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). 

The agreement, and the process through which it is developed, aims to help improve forest governance, address illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products to the EU and other markets. 

The latest negotiations took place on 19 July 2018, amid Thailand’s rollout of substantial reforms affecting the forestry sector. The changes follow constitutional reform that introduced governance improvements including public consultation for legal reforms, gender equality, public access to information, and a right to participate in and benefit from natural resource management.

The reforms include administrative and technological improvements intended to reduce corruption, as well as potentially-far reaching grants of land and resource rights. A long-term campaign to secure rights for forest-dwelling communities is being realised with the passage of community forest legislation. 

Participants of the second negotiation round. Source: EU FLEGT Facility

In parallel, Thailand has made substantial progress in the development of a national system for ensuring the legality of timber and timber products, through its VPA negotiation with the EU. Thailand is designing the system through consultation with stakeholders from the government, private sector and civil society. 

The latest round of VPA negotiations focused on the legal text of the VPA, the range of products it will cover, and ongoing work to develop the approach Thailand will take to verify compliance with legal requirements for timber. Negotiators discussed Thailand’s timber supply chain controls and a system for ensuring that timber imported to Thailand has been harvested legally in the country of harvest.

Thailand and the EU also agreed on a roadmap of joint activities and technical meetings in preparation for the third round of negotiations, currently planned for June-July 2019.

“The VPA is an opportunity for Thailand to strengthen trade with the EU and other markets, while improving forest governance and promoting sustainable forest management,” said Wijarn Simachaya, Permanent Secretary of the Thai Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and lead VPA negotiator for Thailand.

Jorge Rodriguez Romero, Deputy Head of Unit at the European Commission Directorate General for Environment, said: “We welcome the progress that Thailand has made on key elements of the design of its VPA timber legality assurance system and look forward to maintain our close cooperation towards a successful conclusion of negotiations.” 

“We encourage Thailand to continue to engage with stakeholders from the private sector and civil society to ensure that the VPA is robust, practical and effective,” he said.

 

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