Guyana and the EU begin Voluntary Partnership Agreement negotiations
The first VPA negotiation session between Guyana and the European Union was held 5 December 2012 in Guyana's capital Georgetown. Both parties agreed that the common goal is to have the VPA ratified by September 2015.
Guyana has in place timber legality verification systems that have been functioning for years. These verification system are likely to provide a sound basis for developing a legality assurance system, to be defined as part of the VPA. By entering into the VPA process, Guyana aims to demonstrate to international timber and wood product markets that it expects to ensure robust timber legality and strengthen its credibility in timber exporting. The Government of Guyana and the EU agreed that the VPA should be built upon these existing systems, that they should be locally appropriate and that they should serve the needs of the people without putting undue burden on them.
The Guyana Forestry Commission has set up a national technical working group composed of representatives from the public sector, the private sector and indigenous groups to follow the negotiations and participate in consultations. Setting up this working group is a first step toward broad consultation with stakeholders, an essential aspect of the VPA process. Both parties concur that effective and genuine stakeholder involvement is key for ensuring a solid basis for the country's definitions of legal timber and legality assurance system.
The next negotiation session will be in June or July 2013.
In 2010 Guyana began exchanging information with the EU about the potential benefits of developing the bilateral agreement. In March 2012, Guyana officially submitted its request to the EU to develop a VPA. In July 2012 the Government of Guyana and the EU issued a joint statement in which both parties agreed to initiate VPA negotiations by the end of 2012, with the aim of ratifying the agreement by September 2015. Six countries in the world are currently implementing agreed VPAs with the EU. Another seven countries are negotiating agreements.