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Vietnamese ban on natural forest logging may affect region

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Two recent pieces of legislation in Vietnam indicate an apparent intention to clamp down on logging of natural forests in Vietnam and its neighbours, Cambodia and Laos. The government decisions seem also to respond to requirements of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) being negotiated with the EU that aims to address illegality in the timber sector.

The first1 bans almost all logging in natural forests in Vietnam, with the exception of limited harvesting by local households. Notably, significant areas where two major logging companies operate are not covered by the legislation, while it does cover those which have already been transformed to rubber plantations and where weak enforcement of existing regulations have permitted serious, long-standing infractions.

The second2 piece of legislation suspends imports of timber from natural forests in Cambodia and Laos. However, the ban applies only to timber which will not be processed in Vietnam but simply re-exported in its raw state. Instead of reducing its neighbours’ logging of natural forests, it seems more intended to source raw material for Vietnamese processing from its neighbours by keeping their timber within its borders, thus sparing Vietnam’s own forests.

1. Decision No. 2242 / QD-TTG issued 11/12/2014 with immediate effect

2. Decision 37/2014/TT-BCT of 24/10/14 effective from 8/12/14

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