EU and Guyana initial Voluntary Partnership Agreement to combat illegal logging and promote trade in legal timber

The EU and Guyana have concluded negotiations on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). The agreement will help improve forest governance, address illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products.

Raphael Trotman and Marjeta Jager initialled the text of VPA today in Brussels by Javier Bernal Revert, EU FLEGT Facility

When fully implemented in the years ahead, the VPA will give EU-based timber buyers assurance that timber products from Guyana are legal. Through the VPA, Guyana will prevent trade in timber that has been illegally-harvested, transported or processed, and so will improve market access for law-abiding businesses. Guyana expects the VPA to enable it to modernise its forestry sector, create jobs, promote sustainable development and protect the rights of indigenous peoples.

Marjeta Jager, the European Commission’s Deputy Director-General for International Cooperation and Development, and Raphael Trotman, Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources initialled the text of VPA today in Brussels, marking the formal end of the negotiations. Before the agreement can enter into force, the EU and Guyana must complete their internal procedures for signing and ratifying it.

To implement the agreement, Guyana will develop systems and procedures to verify that all timber and timber products for export and domestic markets comply with relevant laws and regulations. Among other things, this means ensuring that loggers don’t fell more trees than they are allowed to harvest, that factories uphold health and safety regulations and the companies pay their taxes.

The exact ways that Guyana will achieve this will be developed during the implementation phase of the VPA, during which the EU and Guyana will have joint oversight of progress. This will involve identifying and addressing possible gaps in the forest allocation process and in the legal framework, upgrading systems for tracking wood through the supply chain, improving procedures for verifying legal compliance, and supporting Guyana in developing approaches for ensuring that the traditional rights of Amerindian peoples are not impeded.

It will also include establishment of independent audits, a complaints mechanism, and systems and procedures for making information on the forest sector publicly available.

The VPA negotiation process has already helped to clarify legal and administrative requirements applicable to the forest sector. In 2018, for example, Guyana enacted new Forest Regulations, replacing outdated regulations that had been in force since 1953. This means that anyone seeking logging rights is now clear about the rules for applying, what to expect from the process and what they must do ensure they are acting within the law.

Guyana also adopted a new Code of Practice for Forests Operations to ensure that logging companies do not exceed harvesting quotas and that their operations are socially and environmentally sustainable.

Raphael Trotman, Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources, said: “The forestry sector in Guyana is an important contributor to the national economy, generating jobs and helping to reduce poverty. The Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the EU will help Guyana to develop the sector by improving forest management and governance. By rooting out illegality, it will boost trade and contribute to Guyana’s goals on climate change, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.”

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said: “This is an important step towards promoting the sustainable development of timber trade, protecting our planet and at the same time creating jobs and contributing to the competitiveness of the forestry sector. The EU is committed to supporting Guyana’s efforts to implement the Voluntary Partnership Agreement in the years ahead.”

The VPA outlines the actions Guyana will take to develop systems so that in future it can verify the legality of timber and timber products it exports. Once the VPA is fully implemented, Guyana’s shipments of timber products to the EU will have to be accompanied by a FLEGT licence, demonstrating their legality. FLEGT-licensed products automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits the placing of illegal timber on the EU market.