Timber and timber products are important exports of Viet Nam of which the turnover has been on the rise over the last decade. The export turnover of these commodities increased from 3.4 billion USD in 2010 to 12.371 billion USD in 2020, making the country the 2nd biggest timber exporter in Asia and the 5th in the world.

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In 2021, the Vietnamese timber industry earned a record-breaking export revenue of 14.7 billion USD despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The country currently has nearly 14,000 enterprises of different sizes engaged in timber processing and manufacturing furniture and other timber products, creating over 500,000 permanent jobs. At the same time, millions of other laborers living in mountainous areas also participate in the production of forest plantations. This contributes to stabilizing social security and sustainable economic development.

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The European Union (EU) is one of Viet Nam’s four largest export markets for timber and timber products. On October 20th, 2010, the European Parliament and Council issued Regulation No. 995/2010, laying down the obligations of operators who place timber and timber products on the market (in short, EUTR 995) as a part of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Action Plan (or FLEGT Action Plan 2003). Accordingly, from March 2013, importers who import timber and timber products into the EU market have to exercise due diligence to prove the legal origin of the timber to EU competent authorities before customs clearance when the shipment enters the EU’s first port. The only two exemptions are timber with the CITES permit issued by the International Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife (CITES) or the FLEGT license from the countries that have negotiated and signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA/FLEGT) with the EU.

In this context, Viet Nam and the EU officially began negotiating the VPA/FLEGT in November 2011 and completed the negotiation on May 11th, 2017. On 19th October 2018, the two parties signed the Agreement, which took effect on June 1st, 2019. The VPA/FLEGT Agreement between Viet Nam and the EU is a legally binding trade agreement aiming at improving forest governance and promoting the trade of legal timber and timber products exported from Viet Nam to the EU market.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has been committed to combatting illegal logging and timber trade and fostering good forest governance for many years. This commitment has recently been reiterated in the BMZ Forest Action Plan (2017).

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With this regard, BMZ has commissioned the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to implement the project “Supporting for the implementation of the FLEGT VPA in Viet Nam” in collaboration with the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry (VNFOREST) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

I was selected to be a GIZ consultant for photography and video during their project to depict forest landscapes and plantation forests, people are in discussion and action both in the workshops, training, and in the forests or working process in the factory for documentation, communications, and publications purposes by the project. The project was held in Dong Nai and Binh Dinh provinces for around ten days.