Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) are a key component of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan to address illegal logging.
Each VPA is a bilateral trade agreement negotiated between the EU and a timber-exporting country outside the EU. While parties enter into VPA negotiations voluntarily, the agreement becomes legally binding when both parties have ratified it.
The details of each agreement, however, are unique to the national context of each partner country, as they are based on national laws and the priorities of national stakeholders. The outputs of each agreement though normally include:
A VPA seeks to ensure that timber and timber products imported into the EU from a partner country comply with the laws of that country.
To achieve this, a partner country must first decide which parts of its national legal framework it will use to define timber legality. The country must also have, and describe in the VPA, a system to ensure legal compliance and issue legal products with FLEGT licences. In most cases, a country will build on existing systems to achieve this.
What is special about a VPA?
A VPA differs from a typical bilateral trade agreement in several ways.