Guyana-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement

This page provides answers to some common questions about the Guyana-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement, FLEGT licensing and Guyana’s timber legality assurance system.

Part One: Background and basics

What is the Guyana-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA)?

The VPA is a legally-binding bilateral trade agreement that aims to improve forest governance and promote trade in legal timber from Guyana to the EU.

  • VPAs are among the key tools of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Government and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan of 2003. Guyana is one of 15 countries negotiating or implementing VPAs with the EU.
  • Guyana and the EU began negotiating the VPA in December 2012.
  • In 2018, Guyana and the EU reached agreement on the content of the VPA; in November, they initialled the VPA, ahead of signing and ratifying it.
  • Under the VPA both Parties commit to trading only in legal timber products.
  • Among other things, the VPA describes a timber legality assurance system capable of verifying the legality of timber products. When fully operational the timber legality assurance system will issue FLEGT licences to accompany Guyana’s exports of verified legal timber products to the EU.
  • Guyana will then only export FLEGT-licensed timber products to the EU if those products fall under the scope of the VPA. The EU will only allow products that fall under the scope of the VPA to enter the EU if they are accompanied by a valid FLEGT licence. FLEGT-licensed timber is considered as meeting the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits EU importers and domestic producers from placing illegally harvested timber products on the EU market.
  • The VPA also includes a framework for overseeing, monitoring and evaluating implementation of the VPA, as well as the  economic, social and environmental impacts of the VPA.
  • Learn more about VPAs in VPA Unpacked. Learn more about the Guyana-EU VPA in the Background

Is the Guyana-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement available online?

After the two Parties initialled the Agreement, Guyana and the EU made a preliminary version of the VPA available for information purposes. It will be subject to legal revision before it is signed and ratified by the two Parties according to their respective procedures.

What is the status of the VPA?

In November 2018, Guyana and the EU initialled the VPA, confirming that both Parties agree that the wording in the document is the wording they agreed. The VPA will enter into force after both the EU and Guyana have signed and then ratified the VPA in accordance with their respective procedures.

Why did Guyana decide to negotiate a VPA?

The objectives of the VPA are to:

  1. Provide a basis for dialogue and cooperation between the Parties aimed at facilitating and promoting its integral implementation
  2. Strengthen the enforcement of forest regulations and governance
  3. Continue to ensure the sustainable management of all types of forest by utilising the existing legal framework
  4. Ensure that all imports from Guyana into the EU of the timber products covered by this Agreement are legally produced and, in doing so, to promote the trade in said timber products

How important is the trade in timber products from Guyana to the EU?

In 2016, the value of Guyana’s wood and wood product exports to the EU was USD 2 million, which amounted to 5% of Guyana’s total wood and wood product exports.

  • The main timber products destined for the EU are sawn timber and roundwood.
  • The website and reports of the FLEGT Independent Market Monitor also provide information on trade flows.

How much of Guyana’s timber production does the VPA cover?

Once operational, the VPA’s timber legality assurance system will cover the following groups of products namely: logs, sawn timber, sleepers, plywood, veneer, poles, parquet and joinery. In 2016, VPA-covered products comprised 99% of Guyana’s timber product exports. The remaining 1% included furniture and building components.

How useful is the VPA, given that Guyana has such a low deforestation rate?

While VPAs aim to reduce illegal logging and deforestation, these are not their only benefits. VPAs also improve forest governance and management, supporting a country’s national sustainable development objectives. VPAs do so by improving legislative clarity, accountability, participation in decision making and transparency. They improve coordination among government agencies and build the capacity of governments, businesses and other stakeholders to play their roles in sustainable forest management and legal timber trade.

VPAs, in addition to reducing illegal logging and deforestation, also allow for systems of tracing and tracking timber to be improved. Additionally, Guyana’s entry into a VPA will signal to rest of the world that it is serious about using its forests in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner.

The VPA process itself has allowed for a number of key agencies who have a role to play in managing the forests resources of the country to sit together and make the best decisions governing how the forest resources should be utilised. It is expected that this discussion will continue after the VPA is ratified.

How useful is the VPA, given that Guyana also exports timber to non-EU markets?

Guyana’s timber legality assurance system and related regulations apply to all export markets, as well as the domestic market.

  • With this commitment, the control and verification of operations will be the same for all timber products produced, acquired and/or in circulation in Guyana. FLEGT licences, however, will be only issued to exports destined for the EU market.
  • FLEGT alone cannot stop trade in illegal timber, especially if major markets remain less regulated. Indeed, under the FLEGT Action Plan, the EU seeks to work with other major timber consumers to develop a more comprehensive framework to reduce imports of illegally harvested timber.
  • Other markets have implemented or are designing measures to eradicate illegal timber from their imports. These markets include the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea. 

How will the VPA address illegal logging and trade in the domestic market?

The VPA will apply to all timber products of types listed in Annex I that are sold on the domestic market or exported. In the context of the VPA, the timber legality assurance system will incorporate new functionalities to better assess the legal compliance of all Guyanese producers, processors, and traders operating on the domestic and export markets. 

Guyana will also establish documented procedures requiring operators that import and/or buy timber products to exercise due diligence to demonstrate the legal origin of the timber products sourced.

How will the VPA protect community rights?

The VPA legality definition includes indicators for each type of forest operator, obliging them to respect tenure or user rights to resources that may be affected by timber harvest rights, where such rights exist. The legality definition also includes a dedicated matrix for Amerindian villages, with specific indicators adapted to the practices and legal requirements of these forest operators. In the fourth negotiation session, Guyana and the EU acknowledged that the VPA represents an opportunity to address broader governance issues. Both Parties recognised that stakeholders have raised land titling and land-use issues. 

However, the Parties cautioned that addressing land title and land-use issues is a longer-term process, requiring an inclusive mechanism providing a dedicated space for dialogue on land tenure, land use and conflicts over land use among all concerned parties instrumental in strengthening governance and law enforcement. The VPA annex on supporting measures will provide support to the Grievance and Redress Mechanism of the current Amerindian Land Titling Project. The Project is a tool that will allow complaints relating to Amerindian land issues to be brought to the attention of Government Ministries and Agencies.

How will the VPA boost trade with the EU?

The VPA describes a timber legality assurance system that, when fully operational, will verify the legality of timber products and issue FLEGT licences to exports bound for the EU. FLEGT licences automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR). This means operators in the EU can place FLEGT-licensed products on the market without carrying out due diligence, thereby saving time and money. FLEGT-licensed products should therefore be more attractive to buyers than equivalent products that do not have FLEGT licences. 

Part Two: The VPA process

How was the VPA negotiated?

The European Commission's Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) negotiated on behalf of the EU. For Guyana, the negotiations were led by the Guyana Forestry Commission and included participation by representatives of Guyanese private sector, Government ministries and agencies, and indigenous peoples.

The mechanisms of consultation included seeking written comments on draft VPA annexes; posting drafts of the legality definition online for comment; stakeholder consultation workshops; and holding regular feedback meetings on key issues with the industry associations and enterprises.

Documents were discussed during the negotiation sessions and through bilateral videoconferences and email exchanges.

Which Guyanese stakeholders and institutions have played roles in the VPA process?

The institutions and stakeholders that have played a role in the VPA process are the Guyana Forestry Commission and its parent ministry (the Ministry of Natural Resources), the Guyana Revenue Authority, the Ministry of Legal Affairs, the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, the Forest Products Development and Marketing Council, the Forest Products Association, the Small Loggers Association, the Guyana Manufacturers and Services Association, the Indigenous People’s Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the National Toshaos Council.

Why has the VPA process taken so long?

Meaningful change takes time. The VPA process is taking the time necessary to build a consensus among national stakeholders and to design, revise and implement a timber legality assurance system that is robust and credible. It would be wrong to compare the pace of VPA negotiation and implementation between countries.

When will FLEGT licensing start?

After the entry into force of a VPA, there is typically a period of intense technical work to establish all systems and procedures required for its implementation. FLEGT licensing can only begin after Guyana’s timber legality assurance system is fully operational and a joint assessment by Guyana and the EU confirms that the system fully meets the requirements described in the VPA. 

How will the EU and Guyana oversee VPA implementation?

Guyana and the EU will establish a Joint Monitoring and Review Committee to oversee VPA implementation. 

Part Three: How will Guyana verify the legality of timber products

What products does the Guyana-EU VPA cover?

Products covered by the VPA include all those required by the EU regulation establishing a FLEGT licensing scheme, which are a minimum requirement for VPAs: logs, sawn timber, railway sleepers, plywood and veneer.

In addition to the minimum requirements of the product scope of a VPA, the VPA also covers other timber products such as items under HS Code 4404 (including poles), HS Code 4409 (including continuously shaped wood products) and HS Code 4418 (including builders’ joinery, cellular wood panels, assembled floor panels and shingles).

Annex I of the VPA provides a comprehensive list of products covered by the VPA.

What is the Guyana’s timber legality assurance system?

The Guyana legality assurance system (GTLAS) is designed to verify the legality of timber from the forest or the point of import through the entire supply chain to the point of final sale or export. The GTLAS covers all sources of timber in Guyana and guarantees the legality along the entire supply chain (from stump or import to processing to export or sale on the domestic market). The GTLAS covers the domestic market and all export markets.  The system combines multiple and cross-referenced field verification procedures, associated with desk-based data verification. It is currently a mixed electronic and paper-based system, with a commitment by Guyana to gradually transition to a fully electronic system.

As in all VPAs, the system includes the following five components:

  1. Legality definition: The legality definition states the aspects of a VPA partner country’s law for which the timber legality assurance system evaluates evidence of compliance.
  2. Supply chain controls: Supply chain controls ensure that timber products verified as legal remain legal throughout all processes associated with the supply chain. Supply chain controls also prevent verified legal products from being tainted by unverified products entering the supply chain.
  3. Verification of compliance: Verification of compliance involves checks that all the requirements of the VPA legality definition and supply chain controls have been met to ensure that timber products are legal.
  4. FLEGT licensing: Once the timber legality assurance system is operational, it will provide for the issuance of a FLEGT licence for each shipment of timber products that is exported to the EU market. Such shipments and their exporters must meet all the requirements set out in the legality definition, supply chain controls and verification procedures.
  5. Independent audit: An independent auditor will periodically assess the implementation, efficiency and credibility of the timber legality assurance system in order to identify, document and report any non-compliances and weaknesses in the system. The independent evaluator will propose measures for improvement to the EU-Guyana Joint Monitoring and Review Committee.

An annex of the Guyana-EU VPA describes the measures that will be put in place during the implementation of Guyana’s timber legality assurance system. In 2019, in consultation with Guinean stakeholders and the EU, a draft Joint Implementation Framework outlining the activities, responsibilities and timeline to implement the VPA was developed. This draft Framework is scheduled to be adopted by the Parties at the first meeting of the pre-JMRC. Through the JRMC, the EU and Guyana will have joint oversight of implementation progress.

What is a FLEGT licence?

A FLEGT licence is a licence issued by a timber-producing country that has a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU. The licence attests to the legality of the timber or timber products.

When Guyana’s timber legality assurance system is fully working as described in the Guyana-EU VPA, Guyana will issue FLEGT licences for timber products bound for the EU, if those products fall under the scope of the VPA.

What if problems emerge? Who has oversight of the VPA?

After Guyana and EU have ratified the VPA, they will set up a Joint Monitoring and Review Committee (JMRC) to oversee implementation of the VPA. The JMRC will respond to any concerns about problems in implementation as they arise. Implementation can therefore improves as it proceeds.

Until Guyana issues FLEGT licences, what requirements must its timber meet to enter the EU market?

Until the start of FLEGT licensing, timber products that Guyana exports to the EU will have to go through the normal due diligence process under the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR). The EUTR prohibits the placing on the market of illegal timber and requires companies placing timber on the EU market to assess and mitigate the risk of illegal timber entering their supply chain. Once FLEGT licensing starts, FLEGT-licensed products automatically meet the EUTR requirements, meaning that no due diligence is required.

Part Four: Outcomes of the VPA

How will the impacts of the VPA be monitored?

The EU and Guyana commit in the VPA to monitor the social, economic and environmental effects of the VPA.

The European Commission has appointed the International Tropical Timber Organization as the FLEGT Independent Market Monitor (IMM) for all VPA countries. The market monitor will assess the trade in timber products between Guyana and the EU, and the impacts of FLEGT licensing on this trade. The IMM published a baseline report in 2015. More recent reports are available on the IMM website.

How will the VPA benefit Guyana?

The VPA is expected to bring economic, social and environmental benefits to Guyana.

  • The VPA should strengthen the market position of verified-legal timber products in the EU and elsewhere.
  • FLEGT-licensed timber will automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation. It will therefore be exempt from any due diligence assessment process, saving time and money. This should increase EU importers' confidence in Guyana’s timber products and make their products more attractive compared with equivalent products without FLEGT licences.
  • The VPA will increase Government revenues by blocking access to export and domestic markets for illegal operators who do not pay appropriate taxes and fees.
  • The VPA will make it easier for Guyana to manage forest resources in a sustainable way, notably through better monitoring and data for sustaining yield.
  • The VPA will help smallholders and small or medium enterprises to gain international market access.
  • The VPA will level the playing field for law-abiding businesses. Until now, illegal actors had an unfair advantage over legal ones.
  • The VPA will raise the international profile of Guyana as it will highlight Guyana’s efforts to improve governance in one of its main economic sectors.

What benefits have already arisen from the VPA process?

Several positive developments have emerged during the VPA negotiations:

  • Improved legal and administrative clarity: In 2018, Guyana enacted new Forest Regulations, replacing outdated regulations that had been in force since 1953. Guyana also adopted a new Code of Practice for Forests Operations. These reforms will improve legal compliance by clarifying legal requirements, and will enable authorities to verify legal compliance and enforce the law.
  • Improved transparency: Guyana’s Forestry Commission website published information on the VPA process, draft VPA annexes on which stakeholders could comment, and reports on negotiation sessions and stakeholder meetings. Guyana consulted with stakeholders to develop a VPA annex that lists the information the Government commits to making publicly available.
  • Enhanced capacity: The VPA process is strengthening the capacity of representatives of the Government, the private sector, and indigenous peoples to work together to address illegality in Guyana’s forest sector. The UK Department for International Development, the Government of Norway, the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme and the EU have all supported activities to ensure a fully inclusive VPA process.
  • Consultation: Ensuring an inclusive and consensus-based VPA is a priority for both Parties. The Guyana Forestry Commission, which is the country’s focal point for the VPA, informed and consulted with stakeholders to draft VPA annexes. The Guyana Forestry Commission has consulted with communities and plans to provide information on the VPA in Amerindian languages. Representatives from the multistakeholder National Technical Working Group, including members of private sector, Amerindian bodies and Government agencies, have participated in television programmes and outreach through radio to Amerindian communities