Ghana has launched the public Timber Transparency Portal that provides access to information on logging in Ghana. The Portal can be accessed by stakeholders around the globe. It is part of governance reforms in the forest sector as a result of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between Ghana and the EU, according to a press release from Civic Response.
Ghana and the European Union are currently bringing final steps underway for completing VPA implementation in the country. The latest meeting of the Joint Monitoring and Review Mechanism (JMRM) at the end of February decided the tender process for the Final Joint Assessment of Ghana’s Legality Assurance System (GhLAS) should be completed no later than 1 May; at that time, consultants should begin evaluating the system.
The cargo shipment test evaluating export and import procedures in preparation for the transport of Ghanaian FLEGT-licensed timber to Europe showed that, while some administrative issues need addressing and some procedures fine-tuning, the Ghanaian system works well in principle.
UK government recognition of FLEGT-licensing in timber procurement policy as evidence of legality and sustainability on an equal footing with FSC and PEFC schemes is a major credit to the initiative. However, more market promotion, communication and education is needed before a FLEGT licence achieves the broad awareness and acceptance levels of these ‘brand-leading’ certification schemes. That’s the view of David Hopkins, managing director of the UK Timber Trade Federation (TTF).
Workshop 3 of the First IMM Trade Consultation held in London on 8 March 2018 involved a multi-national discussion of the status of FLEGT licensing as a criterion in government timber procurement policy (TPP). It also looked at prospects and methods for licensing to achieve greater and more widespread recognition in TPP in the future.
The UK is pledged to incorporate the EU Timber Regulation and EU FLEGT and FLEGT licensing rules in its statutes post-Brexit, according to Therese Coffey, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the contentious issue of whether the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) should broaden in scope to encompass more timber and wood product imports to the EU.
EUTR authorities in Nordic and Baltic countries are involved in a collaborative project to assess and monitor Chinese timber and wood product imports. The first phase of the project, which ran until July 2017, aimed at improving understanding of Chinese supply chains, experience sharing between EU and EEA countries and cross checking Chinese export documents through sharing customs data.
The question whether FLEGT-licensed timber should be considered “a step backwards” compared to timber certified by voluntary third-party schemes was frequently raised as a part of IMM 2017 interviews. It’s a difficult question to answer at the global level, as the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) process determines legality rather than sustainability per se. There is, however, a measure of common ground between the various VPAs currently being implemented or under negotiation and some unique achievements under the VPA process that show that FLEGT-licensed timber is “more than just legal”.
Vietnamese VPA expected to create positive regional dynamics
IMM spoke with Edwin Shanks, VPA Joint Implementation Coordinator for Vietnam, about latest developments in the country. Vietnam is regarded as a processing hub in the timber sector in Southeast Asia and is an important supplier, in particular of indoor and outdoor furniture, for the EU market. In 2015, Vietnam exported timber and timber products to 106 countries worldwide with a total export value of around $6.8. The country imports roughly 40% of its wood requirements,
The European Commission has developed an IT system named FLEGIT/TRACES to support the implementation of FLEGT Licensing Scheme in the EU. FLEGIT allows importers to electronically submit a FLEGT Licence to a Competent Authority and enables the electronic and fast validation of the FLEGT Licence by the Competent Authorities and subsequent clearance by the Customs.
The FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) initiative involves negotiations and programs in 15 tropical counties which together supply over 80% of the international tropical timber trade, by value. While the time taken by countries to reach the licensing stage has been a focus for criticism, a long lead time is inevitable for an initiative which aims to create robust and reliable systems, to engage with and secure the support of a wide range of stakeholders and to deal with complex political and technical issues. Progress varies between countries but there are many encouraging developments.