High hopes for Guyana-EU partnership on legal timber trade
On a cool grey day in Belgium last month, a group of visitors from Guyana gathered at Antwerp port and imagined a future in which their country’s timber products flow freely into the EU, bypassing red tape because every item has been verified to be legal.
“The visit was very exciting,” says Simone Beckles, Assistant Commissioner at the Guyana Revenue Authority. “I realised we have the same principles. The only thing that’s different is the law, but we share the principle of having a risk analysis… Our problems are unique but similar to those of the EU.”
The Guyanese visit coincided with a key milestone in the efforts of Guyana and EU to tackle illegal logging and associated trade — on 23 November, representatives of each side met in Brussels to initial a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), which aims to improve forest governance and promote trade in legal timber products.
Even before the VPA was agreed it has had positive impacts, say members of the Guyanese delegation. They note that the VPA negotiation process has improved consultation in decision-making processes, strengthened coordination among government agencies and led to skills training for officials and the private sector.