FLEGT has played a role in ASEAN Member States for several years. Timber markets worldwide are increasingly responding to the problem of illegal timber and associated trade, due to growing consumer demand for legal timber products, especially those from the EU, the US and Australia. A large proportion of timber and timber products from ASEAN countries is exported to these consumer markets.
Timber products destined for markets with legality requirements often use timber harvested from one ASEAN country which is being processed in another. This makes cooperation between the ASEAN Member States on this issue ever more important. At the same time these timber legality frameworks will also facilitate meeting the growing wood products demand within the ASEAN region. The FLEGT process is relevant to the effort of enhancing competitiveness of ASEAN forest products and to gain global market access for the benefit of people in the region. That’s why many Member States of ASEAN are engaging in FLEGT.
In 2009, ASEAN’s Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry endorsed a regional reference framework for timber legality, the ASEAN Criteria and Indicators for Legality of Timber, and for timber tracking, the ASEAN Guidelines for Chain of Custody of Legal Timber and Sustainable Timber. The ASEAN Secretariat and ASEAN member states have since held several related meetings and capacity building events. Countries’ involvement in VPAs and FLEGT licensing run parallel to these developments.
To date, five ASEAN Member States – Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam – are engaged in Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) processes with the EU. Indonesia has signed the VPA and is in the implementation phase. Vietnam aims to sign a VPA in 2017 and the other countries are engaged in the negotiation with the EU.