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.
Ghana and the EC have started a cargo shipment test to evaluate export and import procedures in preparation for the transport of Ghanaian FLEGT licensed timber and wood products to various EU destinations. The main aim is to identify and recommend corrective actions for any shortcomings that might hinder efficient processing of export/import documents and thus the flow of FLEGT-licensed wood product exports.
New legislation on conversion of concessions has passed Parliament
Ghana has progressed farthest on the path to FLEGT-licensing among the five African countries implementing a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU. In early November, long-awaited new legislation dealing with the conversion of several timber harvesting concessions to Timber Utilisation Contracts (TUCs), among other things, has passed parliament. This means that a number of administrative and technical processes that were stalled due to the absence of this law can now be implemented. Ghana still has some technical and administrative hurdles to overcome before it can start FLEGT-licensing, but the goal is slowly coming within reach.
A year on since Indonesia began FLEGT licensing timber exports to the EU, and one EU FLEGT national Competent Authority (CA) commented that introduction of the licensing system had been ‘remarkably smooth and uneventful’. This seems to be the consensus among most Indonesian exporters and EU importers and their respective authorities. At the same time, perhaps inevitably for any new administrative system, particularly one that involves an international spread of businesses and authorities and so many different products, both parties agree that there have been some initial issues with implementation and operational teething problems.
A quick guide to how the VPA was implemented and works
When Indonesia started issuing FLEGT licences last November, verifying the legality of its timber exports to the EU prior to despatch, it was billed as a milestone in global efforts to combat illegal logging and illegal wood products trade. Since then the country and its FLEGT licensing system has attracted attention from across the global timber trading community and interested parties, mainly from Indonesia’s export markets and other countries engaged in the EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement initiative (FLEGT VPA), but not exclusively.