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EU, Liberia Signs Agreement For Timber Trade

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The Liberian Government and European Union Wednesday signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) aim at re-enforcing the reform process of good governance in the forest sector. The accord also guarantees that timber and timber products shipped into the EU countries contain no illegal timber.

Delegations from both parties met as part of the third formal negotiation session in Monrovia from July 12 -14, 2010 to discuss key components of the envisaged timber legality control system, namely the definition of legal timber and timber products as well as the mechanisms to safeguard timber legality.

The VPA system requires all timber the EU from a partner country to have a license evidencing that timber has been legally harvested, processed and sold.

The under the agreement, timber must be harvested legally and provide benefits to local forest communities as outlined in Liberian law. Rather than impose EU standards, the agreement is based on national Liberian legislation and contains legal requirements endorsed by a wide range of stakeholder including industry, government, civil society and forest dependent communities.

On the occasion of this session, the delegation also visited field operations to see Liberia’s chain of custody system working un practice. The conclusion of the VPA is planned for early 2011.

“This in turn will secure greater revenue from the forest sector and bring economic and social benefits to Liberia’s people”, said the Agriculture Minister Florence Chenoweth.

Speaking during the signing Mr. Luis Riera, EU Chief Negotiator and Director for Development of the European Commission appreciated the commitment of the government of Liberia to commonly fight illegal logging and related trade an issue of shared global concern.

He confirmed the EU’s support to ensure the forest sector fully contributes to enhancing development and social and economic cohesion.

In the frame work of VPAs, timber producing countries commit themselves to implementing a comprehensive control system to ensure legality of timer trade with the EU and strengthen governance of forest sector, including community rights.

The EU is committed to excluding illegal from the EU wide market while providing assistance to countries to help strengthen robust enforcement and auditing systems.

In the negotiation process, representatives from the EU, the government, the private sector and civil society negotiate various elements of the timber trade system. Discussion includes a chain of custody, tracking system that traces all timber shipments from the felling point to processing points and to their points of export as well as a transparent system for collecting timber fees and ensuring that timber sales are in compliance with national law.

So, far, three countries Ghana, Congo and Cameroon have concluded VPAs with the EU and are currently developing respective timber control and monitoring systems.

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