Briefing | Dec. 18, 2018

Vietnam's High Risk Timber Trade

Lessons from the Democratic Republic of Congo

This briefing summarises the critical findings from our latest investigation into illegal logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo Total Systems Failure – and proposes vital measures that Vietnam can take to effectively tackle the flow of illegal timber coming into the country, from nations where there is a prevalence of illegal logging.

Download the full briefing in English here (PDF)

Download the full briefing in Vietnamese here (PDF)

Home to a kaleidoscopic rainforest of over 600 tree species and 10,000 animal species, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of our planet’s most important biodiversity hotspots.

We have found that Norsudtimber – a secretive company based in Liechtenstein, and the single largest owner of logging concessions in the DRC’s forests – is illegally harvesting timber on 90% of its sites, with government complicity. This is an expanse of over 40,000km2, with half of the trees being exported coming from endangered or vulnerable tree species. Norsudtimber is breaching its contracts with total impunity. It has given a detailed denial, which we have included in this briefing. 

In 2017, Vietnam imported 74% of the timber harvested by Norsudtimber and overtook China as the main destination for Norsudtimber’s exports. 

Vietnam does not yet have an effective system to prevent imports of illegal timber and there are no obligations on importers or traders to exercise due diligence.

Including DRC, the main countries exporting from this region to Vietnam contain a high risk of illegal logging. Vietnamese authorities and traders should be aware of the increased risk of importing from this region.

Vietnam’s commitment in the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) to introduce import controls presents an opportunity to tackle this trade. In the meantime, traders should refrain from importing timber at high risk of having been harvested illegally.

Based on our experience of working on the EU Timber Regulation and US Lacey Act, we recommend that Vietnam’s import controls must include:

  • Prohibition on the import of illegally harvested or illegally exported timber.
  • A requirement for mandatory due diligence by importers to identify and mitigate risks of illegality, including enhanced due diligence for at-risk imports.
  • A requirement for accurate identification of timber species by authorities and importers, with IUCN categorisation of “endangered”, “vulnerable” or “near threatened” species considered high risk.
  • A requirement for full and accurate assessment by authorities and importers of risk related to country of origin.
  • Enforcement authorities with expertise and capacity to conduct checks on companies’ due diligence and further investigations into timber supply chains.
  • Transparency and complaint mechanisms for sharing information between NGOs and enforcement authorities.
  • Dissuasive penalties for importers in contravention of the import controls.

Read our report 'Total Systems Failure' here

Read our blog on why EU trade agreements with Vietnam should signal a new era


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