Trade in FLEGT-licensed products
Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) promote trade in legal timber and timber products. To promote trade in legal timber and timber products, VPA partner countries develop systems to verify the legality of timber and provide legal products with a FLEGT licence. The EU considers FLEGT-licensed timber to be legal and allows it to enter the EU market. VPA partner countries commit to export only FLEGT-licensed timber to the EU.
In contrast, timber without a FLEGT licence from a non-VPA partner country faces rigorous controls before it can enter the EU market. This is because the EU Timber Regulation imposes penalties on EU operators who import illegal products.
The rationale for VPAs is that they create market incentives for legal timber. To date, six countries have ratified VPAs and are implementing systems to underpin FLEGT licensing. Nine other countries are negotiating VPAs with the EU.
Together, these countries supplied more than two-thirds of the tropical timber imported to the EU in 2012. Some of these countries depend heavily on exports of primary-processed timber to the EU. Other countries that currently export less to the EU may expect a VPA to increase exports to the EU.
However, VPAs have taken longer to agree and implement than anticipated. In part, this is because VPA processes address long-standing forest governance issues. As a result, at the time of writing, no country has shipped FLEGT-licensed timber to the EU. Thus, it is too early to assess the effects of VPAs on trade. The effects of VPAs on trade will depend on the:
- Scale and pace of economic recovery in the EU
- Arrival in the EU of the first shipments of FLEGT-licensed timber
- Full implementation and enforcement of the EU Timber Regulation
The delay in obtaining up-to-date trade statistics means, however, that when FLEGT-licensed timber is available on the EU market, the effect on volumes and values will not be clear until a year later. Nevertheless, the new independent market monitoring system will assess the impact on the tropical timber trade.