Lao Government kicks off negotiations with European Union on trade agreement to promote legal timber trade

The National Steering Committee (NSC) for the FLEGT process, approved by the Prime Minister Office on 19 August 2015 with the Decision No. 65/PMO, has initiated negotiations with the European Union (EU) on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) for FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) to tackle illegal wood harvesting and promote legal timber trade with the EU.

 

Dr. Phouangparisak Pravongviengkham, Vice-Minister of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), has been appointed by the NSC as the Chief Negotiator to lead the Lao delegation in the negotiations with the EU. The Government of Laos aims to conduct the first negotiation with the EU before end of 2015.

 

This first meeting of the NSC on Friday, 2nd October 2015, was chaired by Dr. Phouangparisak and co-chaired by Mr. Siewsavath Savaengseuksa (Vice-Minister of Industry and Commerce), Mr. Chanhsone Sengbouttalath (Vice-Minister of Natural Resources and Environment), Mr. Bounsavath Boupha (Vice-Minister of Justice), Mr. Bounchom Oubonpaseuth (Vice-Minister of Finance), Mr. Souksamay Chanthamath (Vice-Governor of Attapeu Province), Mr. Somchay Phetsinouan (Vice-Governor of Khammouane Province), and Mr. Yanyong Sipaseuth (Vice-Governor of Sayaboury Province). As additional members of the NSC, representatives from timber processing industry (President of Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry) and from local civil society organisations (CSO) participated.

 

“Negotiating this trade agreement needs to go hand-in-hand with strengthening value-adding wood processing in Laos. This will increase State revenues, create new jobs and will allow Laos to access new export markets”, said Dr. Phouangparisak. “At the same time law enforcement has to be stepped up”.

 

In addition to the members of the NSC, Mr. Khamphout Phandanouvong, Director General of Department of Forest Inspection (DOFI) and FLEGT Focal Point of the Lao Government, attended the meeting, as well as several other Director General and Deputy Director General from Department of Forestry (DOF), Department of Import and Export (DIMEX), Foreign Trade Policy Department (FTPD), Department of Industry and Handicraft (DOIH), Department of Forest Resources Management (DFRM), Department of Planning and Cooperation (DOPC, Ministry of Planning and Investment), Department of Customs, National Assembly (Economic Department), Department of Planning and Cooperation (DOPC, MAF).

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As part of the Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) to combat illegal logging globally, the European Union (EU) is concluding Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) with timber producing countries. A VPA is an international trade agreement to reduce illegal wood harvesting and promote legal timber trade.

 

Laos has started to negotiate such an agreement with the EU, with assistance from the GIZ project Support to the Lao EU-FLEGT process (ProFLEGT).

 

ProFLEGT is a joint initiative of the Lao Government and the German Development Cooperation. It is working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (through the FLEGT Standing Office under the supervision of the Department of Forest Inspection, DOFI), Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, as well as other Government agencies, civil society organisations, academia and timber processing industry.

 

You can download the press release HERE