Chinese traders fear new import restrictions on illegal timber

September 02, 2010

The China Timber and Wood Products Circulation Association (CTWPCA) is seeking to establish a body to help importers navigate new environmental regulations in the United States and Europe that restrict trade in illegally logged timber, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).

In its August 16-31 Tropical Timber Market Report, ITTO reports that Chinese importers fear failing to meet new U.S. and E.U. regulations governing the sourcing of timber products. The Lacey Act (U.S.) and the FLEG-T (Europe) put the burden of responsibility on importing companies, holding them to the environmental laws of producing countries, even when those countries are unwilling or unable to enforce their rules. Companies found to be sourcing illegally logged timber could be subject to fines or worse. Gibson Guitar, a company accused of using illicit rosewood from Madagascar, was the first company to be charged and investigated under the Lacey Act, which was amended in 2008 to include "anyone who imported, exported, transported, sold, received, acquired or purchased the wood products made from that illegal timber, who knew or should have known that the wood was illegal." Gibson's case is pending.

According to ITTO, CTWPCA believes traders need "guidance and support" on the new international requirements. The body would also set up a "responsible procurement system" for timber imports, seek to address corruption in the timber import and trade sector, and aim to help Chinese timber traders meet international standards.

China already has guidelines governing Chinese companies operating forest concessions overseas. These compel companies to abide by local environmental laws and take measures to reduce pollution. Nevertheless there is no indication these mandatory rules are enforced.

Word of CTWPCA's interest in establishing the timber body comes as log imports to Guangdong Province reached record high levels in the January to July 2010 period. Some 719,000 cubic meters of logs were imported, a rise of 60 percent over the same period last year, according to data from Huangpu Customs. 57 percent of the logs came from Europe and Asia.

The increase in log imports is attributed to global economic recovery and rising demand in China for construction and furniture.

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Chinese traders fear new import restrictions on illegal timber.