In 2009, the government started engaging with the voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) process, and formal negotiations with the EU began in 2012. The government’s aims for this process are to ensure sustainable development of the forest sector, improve opportunities for the country’s timber industry and increase revenue from timber exports (EFI). However the forest governance situation remains poor, with a lack of transparency and accountability resulting in significant implementation and enforcement challenges. Available evidence suggests that illegal practices are widespread in the forest sector (Chatham House, 2014).
About 40% of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is covered by closed canopy forests, with much of the remaining forest seriously degraded. The clearance of natural forest areas for plantations or infrastructure projects is the main source of timber in the country, for which the main export markets are Vietnam, Thailand, and China. The government’s current forestry strategy (to 2020) aims to regenerate forests and increase the area of timber plantations (Chatham House, 2014; EFI).