Voluntary Partnership Agreement

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A Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) is a bilateral timber-trade agreement between the European Union and a timber-exporting country outside the EU. VPAs are a key element of the EU FLEGT Action Plan, which aims to address illegal logging.

Under a VPA, the partner country agrees to export only legal timber products to the EU. The EU agrees to give verified legal ('FLEGT-licensed) timber products from the country free access to the EU market.[1] The EU also commits to denying entry to any timber shipments from a VPA partner country that lack FLEGT licences and must therefore be illegal.

The aim is to use trade as an incentive, as FLEGT-licensed timber automatically meets the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which requires EU operators to use due diligence to prevent illegal wood entering the market. FLEGT licensed timber will not be subject to those checks so will have a green light to enter the EU.

The core of each VPA is the description of a timber legality assurance system the partner country will implement in order to verify the legality of timber products and issue verified legal products with FLEGT licences. Each timber legality assurance system must have the following five components: a legality definition, supply chain controls, verification of compliance, FLEGT licensing and independent audit of the whole system.[2]

VPAs are also intended to strengthen forest governance in timber-exporting countries by improving transparency, accountability and stakeholder participation.[3] Such gains may result from commitments the partner country makes in the VPA text and annexes, or from the very process of negotiating and implementing a VPA.[4]

The FLEGT Regulation, which the EU adopted in 2005 under the FLEGT Action Plan, empowers the European Commission to negotiate VPAs with timber-exporting countries.[5]

On 21 April 2016, the Presidents of Indonesia, the European Commission and the European Council confirmed that Indonesia had met the final major requirement of its VPA and was on course to become the world’s first country to issue ‘FLEGT’ licences.[6] Among other VPA partner countries, Ghana is also in an advanced stage of implementing its timber legality assurance system ahead of FLEGT licensing.[7]

Overview of VPAs[edit]

Together, the 15 countries negotiating or implementing VPAs supply 80 percent of the EU's tropical timber.[8]

Countries negotiating VPAs: Nine countries are negotiating VPAs with the EU: Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guyana, Honduras, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam[8]

Countries implementing VPAs: Six countries have completed VPA negotiations and, together with the EU, are implementing their agreements: Cameroon,[9] Central African Republic,[10] Ghana,[11] Liberia, Indonesia,[12] Republic of the Congo[13] While no country has yet begun FLEGT-licensing, two countries - Ghana and Indonesia - are close to achieving this goal.[14][15]

Other countries: Other countries in Africa (Sierra Leone), South East Asia (Myanmar and Cambodia), Latin America (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru) and the South Pacific (Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands) have also participated in informal VPA discussions with the EU.[16][17][18]

VPA processes[edit]

VPA processes can be divided into three broad phases, whose boundaries may blur: pre-negotiation, negotiation and implementation.[19] The EU advocates for stakeholder participation throughout VPA processes in order to foster national ownership of the VPA and its commitments.[20] VPA negotiations do not only take place between the EU and the partner country. Negotiations within and among stakeholder groups are what shape the contents, scope and ambition of each VPA.

In 2014, the [1]FAO-EU FLEGT Programme of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations published The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) process in Central and West Africa: from theory to practice,[17] which documents and discusses good practices for stakeholders in partner countries that are negotiating a VPA - or due to enter into such negotiations.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FLEGT Briefing Notes. No. 6. Voluntary Partnership Agreements". European Commission. 2007.
  2. ^ EU FLEGT Facility. 2015. VPA phases., retrieved 16 July 2015
  3. ^ "VPA Unpacked". EU FLEGT Facility. 2015. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  4. ^ "How a VPA promotes good forest governance". VPA Unpacked. EU FLEGT Facility. 2015. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
  5. ^ "FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements". European Commission. 2015. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  6. ^ European Commission. 2016. Environment: EU and Indonesia to start first-ever licensing scheme for legal timber exports. Press release, 21 April 2016, retrieved 21 April 2016
  7. ^ EU FLEGT Facility. 2016. Annual report. EU FLEGT Facility: Highlights and insights from 2015., retrieved 21 April 2016
  8. ^ a b Juppi, M. & Tagliaferri, M. 2015. FLEGT Week 2014 Report: Information sessions on FLEGT progress and achievements, retrieved 16 July 2015
  9. ^ "Cameroon-EU FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement". European Commission. 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  10. ^ "Central African Republic-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement". European Commission. 2012. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  11. ^ "Ghana-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement". European Commission. 2010.
  12. ^ "Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement". European Commission. 2014.
  13. ^ "Republic of the Congo-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement". European Commission. 2013.
  14. ^ Ghana News Agency. 2015. Ghana on course with wood tracking system. Ghana Business News. 22 June 2015, retrieved 16 July 2015
  15. ^ Hans Nicholas Jong. 2015. RI set to become world leader in timber legality. The Jakarta Post. 9 July 2015, retrieved 16 July 2015
  16. ^ International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development. 2009, May 15. "EU Signs Timber Agreement with Republic of Congo," Bridges Trade BioRes 9 (9).
  17. ^ The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) process in Central and West Africa: from theory to practice (PDF). FAO. 2014.
  18. ^ Timber Trade Federation. n.d. "FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement"
  19. ^ EU FLEGT Facility. 2015. VPA phases., retrieved 16 July 2015
  20. ^ EU FLEGT Facility. 2015. National VPA negotiations., retrieved 16 July 2015