The Government of through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and the European Union (EU) on Tuesday, July 10, renewed their commitment to the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) through the signature of a new financing agreement valued at €4 million (US$4,672,640.00).
The VPA, which is a legally binding trade agreement, aims to ensure that all timber and timber products destined for the EU market from a partner country comply with the laws of that country. In addition to promoting trade in legal timber, VPAs address the causes of the illegality by improving forest governance and law enforcement and the major strength of VPAs.
According to the Aide Memoir document, the VPA look beyond trade to consider development and environmental issues.
The chairman of the Board of Directors of FDA, Harrison S. Karnwea, who signed on behalf the board at the end of the sixth meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC), lauded the EU through the VPA for finalizing such agreement, that would boost the country’s timber industry.
Mr. Karnwea said the country will continue to manage its forest and forest resources sustainably for the benefit of “this and the future generation.”
He expressed the hope that very soon the country will join Indonesia to issue a Forestry Law Partnership Agreement and Trade (FLEGT) certificate.
“We also thank the office of the FDA managing director, the EU ambassador, the FLEGT facilitators for the mutually acceptable outcome. We look forward to a successful implementation of the VPA until Liberia joins Indonesia to issue FLEGT certificate in the not too destine future,” he said.
Alberto Menghini, EU Head of Corporation Sector for Resilience in the country, who also spoke on behalf of his Ambassador, Hélène Cavé, expressed gratitude to the FDA management and their partners for signing the final document of the joint implementation committee of the new VPA for Liberia.
This discussions, according to Menghini, were particularly intense and of substance. “I believe that this is a very good sign that shows that the VPA agreement is alive and kicking and we are particularly pleased to see that the new administration is committed to the VPA; this is the first implementation committee that we owed to the leadership of the FDA,” Menghini said.
He said EU is aware that one of the targets of the Weah administration under the pro-poor development agenda is to increase the contribution of the forestry sector to Liberia’s National GDP to 12%.
Mr. Menghini said they are sure that the forestry sector is a potential source for the country. “And we believe that through the VPA we can also work together so that the sector produces more revenue generation, more jobs, but also we can promote together more than ever to improve governance of the sector, so that economic growth is not just economic but also target the issuing of a full FLEGT licensing.”
It can be recalled that EU ratified the VPA in 2012 and Liberia ratified it in 2013. They are now implementing the commitments they made in the agreement. Once Liberia has implemented a timber legality assurance system and other commitments outlined in the VPA, it will export to the EU only verified legal timber products accompanied by FLEGT licenses.
FLEGT-licensed timber products from Liberia will be able to enter the EU market without undergoing the due diligence checks required by the EU Timber Regulation. Such direct access to the EU market can increase the attractiveness of the Liberian timber products to EU importers and can contribute significantly to raising revenue an stimulating the country’s economic activity. While FLEGT licensing is an important goal, the VPA has already had a positive impact by improving transparency, stakeholder participation, capacity and other aspects of good forest governance.