Associate Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources

While the Vietnamese government has made some progress towards tackling illegal logging and the associated trade, there has been little progress in policy reform, and there is still no legislation regulating illegal timber imports.

A motoryclist rides past a private wood processing workshop in HanoI, Vietnam. Photo by HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images.A motoryclist rides past a private wood processing workshop, Vietnam. Photo by Getty Images.

This paper is part of a broader Chatham House study which assesses illegal logging and the associated trade. 

The Vietnamese government has made some progress towards tackling illegal logging and the associated trade. It has negotiated a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) with the EU, a process that has prompted a review of relevant legislation and improved the government’s engagement with civil society. In addition, it has signed agreements with Lao PDR and Cambodia in which it has committed to coordination on forest management and trade. However, there has been little progress in policy reform, and there is still no legislation regulating illegal timber imports.

There is a high level of awareness of illegal logging and associated trade within the private sector: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) chain-of-custody (CoC) certification has increased rapidly, particularly in the furniture sector. But efforts are hampered by poor access to third-party verified raw material.

Both trade data discrepancies and analysis of trade flows indicate that illegal trade remains a serious problem. The volume of imports of wood-based products at a high risk of illegality is estimated to have increased since 2000, while its share in the volume of total imports of wood-based products gradually declined until 2009 and then increased slightly: they are estimated to have comprised 18 per cent of the total by volume in 2013.

In order to build on its response to illegal logging and related trade, the government should establish a legal responsibility for Vietnamese importers to ensure that their timber sources are legal. Furthermore, to increase domestic demand for legal products, it should establish a public procurement policy requiring the use of verified legal products. Within the framework of the VPA, broad and effective multi-stakeholder engagement will be vital to ensure that a robust timber legality assurance system is developed. In addition, proactive partnerships should be forged with high-risk supply countries to establish legality criteria and indicators that reflect the full scope of the relevant legislation in those countries.