Lao-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Government and Trade towards Voluntary Partnership Agreement Process (Lao-EU FLEGT VPA)

What is FLEGT?

FLEGT stands for Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade. It is part of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan, that was established in 2003. It aims to reduce illegal logging by strengthening sustainable and legal forest management, improving governance and promoting trade in legally produced timber.

One part of the FLEGT Action plan are Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) between the EU and timber-producing countries to promote trade in legal timber products and help to close the EU market to illegal products. Each VPA is a bilateral trade agreement negotiated between the EU and a timber-exporting country outside the EU. While parties enter into a VPA voluntarily, the agreement becomes legally binding when both parties have ratified it.

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 part of its national legal framework it will use to define legality for the purposes of the VPA. The country must also have, and describe in the VPA text and annexes, a system to ensure legal compliance and issue legal products with FLEGT licenses. In most cases, a country will build on existing systems to achieve this.

The EU FLEGT Action Plan sees VPAs as tools to improve forest governance. Among other gains, VPAs agreed to date have:

  • Proved the most participatory decision-making processes ever to have taken place in partner-countries’ forest sectors
  • Included major transparency commitments
  • Provided the much-needed legal and institutional clarity that underpins legality, law enforcement and accountability
  • Strengthened the capacity of national governments and stakeholders to deliberate on and develop shared solutions to illegal logging

More information on the EU FLEGT Action plan and VPAs can be found under:

Lao - EU FLEGT VPA

VPA background

The Lao PDR perceives VPA as one of the areas to address the issues of illegal logging and trading in illegal timber and promote sustainable use of forest and forest resources in the country to meet the target of forestry Strategy. Laos therefore expressed interests to enter to VPA preparation and negotiation with EU in 2012. The VPA preparation and negotiation with EU in Lao PDR have been approved by the Lao Government in June 2015 and the official VPA preparation and negotiation with EU started in 2016.

VPA process and progress

To develop a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), the timber-exporting country and the EU go through four negotiation phases. These negotiation phases on the one hand include bilateral negotiations between the EU and the timber-exporting country and on the other, national negotiations within and between different stakeholder groups in the timber-exporting country. While bilateral negotiations formalise a VPA, the national discussions shape the agreement’s content.

The stakeholder discussions in a timber-exporting country depend on the national context and the issues that concern stakeholders such as the private sector or the local government sector. There is no generic blueprint for a VPA process, the process varies between different countries. The flexibility of the VPA model allows stakeholders to develop an agreement that meets their specific needs and an appropriate roadmap for implementing the agreement.

The VPA process is unique in that it addresses the entire value chain from wood harvesting to the point of export. This enables the national government, the private sector and civil society representatives to reach consensus on how to promote legal forestry activities that support economic, social and environmental goals.

Experiences to date have shown that some governance challenges take time to address. It also takes time to ensure that the negotiating phase is credible and likely to yield results. In the implementation phase, which stakeholders enhance and/or develop the systems, institutions, capacity, legislative frameworks and governance reforms agreed in a VPA, is comprehensive and responds to new challenges as they emerge.

VPA elements

VPA text

The main text of a Lao VPA explains the key obligations of both Lao and EU and how they will interact during implementation of the agreement. The details of VPA text.

VPA Annexes

The Lao VPA annexes describe the practical steps for implementing the core commitments in the VPA in detail which include:

    • Annex on product scope

Define the timber and wood products from Laos to be exported to EU and other market destination including selling in domestic markets which include: Wood and articles of wood, musical instruments; parts and accessories of such articles, furniture and bedding.

    • Annex on Lao timber legality assurance system (Lao TLAS)

for more information about Lao TLAS click here

    • Annex on implementation schedule

Lao PDR is under the negotiation phase to be concluded in March 2021. The implementation schedule has not been defined and agreed with EU yet.

    • Annex on supporting measures

It is expected that the supporting measures for VPA implementation for Lao PDR will include: establishing implementing organization structures, build capacity of key stakeholders, establishing the legality assurance system, strengthening the legal and regulatory framework, monitoring of the implementation and impact of VPA including on local people and private sector operators, communicating with national and international stakeholders and updating the strategic framework for the forestry sector.

    • Annex on public information disclosures

The information disclosures of Lao VPA implementation shall be transparent which will be done through website, multi-stakeholder platform, public meetings, press conferences, national radio and newspaper, brochures and newsletters.

    • Annex on the functions of the joint implementation committee

Lao PDR will consult and agree with EU for establishing the joint implementation committee (JIC) to oversight and monitor implementation of this Agreement. The Lao – EU JIC will facilitate dialogue and exchanges of information on the functioning of this Agreement, particularly to manage, monitor, assess, audit and implement this Agreement.