Key parts of the timber legality definition have been drafted to help ensure good forest governance in Laos, under the recent initiative led by the Government of Lao PDR and other stakeholders involved in the Lao EU-FLEGT Process (Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade). The multi-stakeholder Technical Working Group of the Lao EU-FLEGT process discussed the draft timber legality definition on 26 July 2016, as part of the preparation for the first face to face FLEGT/VPA (Voluntary Partnership Agreement) negotiations between Lao PDR and the European Union (EU), scheduled for the last quarter of 2016.
“Having a concrete definition on what is legal timber is crucial for Laos as it acts as an ‘entry ticket’ to generate and comply with new export opportunities in the ASEAN Economic Community and other export markets, such as Europe, the U.S., China, ASEAN, Australia, Japan and South Korea, requesting legally verified timber”, said Mr. Khamphout Phandanouvong, Director General of the Department of Forest Inspection (DOFI), and the Head of the National Support and Development Committee. “Once legal timber is defined, the next milestone is to enhance the competitiveness of the Lao timber industry through the improvement of the sustainable supply of raw materials, increased qualification of staff and workers in the wood processing industry and access to market and product information for each individual company”, he added.
“A well-defined description of what legal timber is will be beneficial to a range of stakeholders, from local communities to the private sector and related government agencies”, said Mr. Tim Dawson, an international expert at the EU FLEGT Facility – European Forest Institute. “Forest-dependent communities in Lao PDR should have greater clarity regarding their rights to access resources in areas as allowed and managed by the government. Company owners, especially in timber processing, furniture and handicraft industries, should have greater certainty about the legality of the supply of raw material”, he added.
The FLEGT process, through improved timber flow monitoring along the supply chain, supports the enforcement of the Prime Minister Order No.15 on “Strengthening Strictness of Timber Harvest Management and Inspection, Timber Transport and Business”.
For the first face to face FLEGT/VPA negotiations between Lao PDR and the EU, the first proposed general structure of Timber Legality Definition to bring forward is tentatively to include the legality standards for natural production forest; concession areas; plantation; village forest; confiscated timber; imported timber; labour law and regulations; wood processing regulations; and transport, trade and export, a total of nine legality standards, each will have their own principles, criteria, indicators and verifiers. In addition, product scope, which is a list of timber and timber products, will be submitted using a ‘HS’ code, to be in line with the World Customs, Union’s system for classifying products. HS codes enable customs authorities in the EU to identify the product category to which imports belong.
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