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According to statistics of the General Department of Customs and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), Viet Nam’s timber and timber products processing industry and export has experienced significant growth in the past 5 years. The annual export value of timber and timber products has dramatically and continuously increased, from about 1.5 billion USD in 2000 to double-digit value in recent years. Viet Nam’s timber and timber products have currently been exported to more than 120 countries and territories. Viet Nam is now among centers of global trade in timber and forest products, importing timber from 100 countries as well as ranking the 4th largest exporter of timber products in the world. The annual export value of timber and timber products has increased by double digit, reaching 12.5 billion USD in 2020 and expectedly 15 billion USD in 2021. Of which, the annual export value to the European Union (EU) has been levelled off in recent years, fluctuating around 1 billion USD annually. In constrast to the market volatility of other export commodities in the past years, such as rice, coffe and rubber, the stability of the global timber market has emphasized the importance of the timber industry to the national economy as well as the importance of the EU market. As such, it is easily understood the protecting the reputation of the timber industry is of great importance to the Government.

In Viet Nam, the forest cover is also increasing and reaching 42%, however, the forest quality is decreasing due to deforestation and forest degradation. The direct causes of this situation include (i) conversion of forest land to agricultural land, including land for plantation of high-value perennial crops; (ii) conversion of forest land for infrastructure development, especially for construction of hydropower plants; (iii) illegal timber logging; and (iv) forest fires. Additionally, there are also indirect causes. According to some studies, limited state management capacity is among indirect causes resulting in deforestation and forest degradation. Therefore, it is necessary to improve capacity to manage and monitor forest plantation and harvesting, particularly, in the context that Viet Nam officially signed the Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA/FLEGT) with the EU and numerous businesses have been increasingly exporting timber products. The Free Trade Agreement between Viet Nam and the EU (EVFTA) will create opportunities to liberalize trade in timber products, reduce taxes on timber and timber products, thereby creating competitive advantages, increasing export value of the timber industry, generating more jobs for domestic labours and improving social welfare for employees. In addition to benefits brought by the EVFTA, there are also probably unwanted risks if the Agreement is not closely monitored. The development of bilateral timber trade requires independent monitoring within the framework of the "Trade and Sustainable Development" Chapter of the EVFTA. This needs active participation of the civil society organizations (CSO).

Forest governance is a highly social process, requiring responsibility and engagement of not only government authorities but also various stakeholders at different levels, especially forest-dependent people who are playing important roles in forest protection and development. The big challenge now is that the tradition of local communities in using and owning forests has not been institutionalized, in some places, local people are considering themselves as forest owners, land owners through many generations, causing controversies and potentional conflicts. Moreover, benefit sharing from forests between businesses and units having forest management and utilization certificates and forest-dependent people is still in “ask-give” manner, untransparent and unfair in legal documents as well as in practice, resulting in dissatisfaction and frustration. The exclusion of forest-dependent people and communities from stakeholders in forest governance has created social unrest in the short term and unsustainability in the long term.

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