Shipment of Malagasy rosewood intercepted in Sri Lanka in early April 2014. Courtesy of Sri Lanka Customs.
Voluntary guidelines established by the Chinese government won’t be enough to curb rampant timber smuggling by Chinese companies, putting ‘responsible’ actors at risk of having their reputations tarnished, argues a new campaign by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
Citing a series of recent investigations into illegal logging and timber smuggling involving Chinese enterprises, EIA warned that new guidelines from China’s State Forestry Administration focus too little on timber imports.
“The guidelines are skewed to the operations of Chinese enterprises overseas, and do not regulate importers of illegally-logged timber into China,” said a statement issued by the group.
Jago Wadley, EIA Forest Campaigner, added that the government should establish binding and enforceable laws, rather than voluntary standards.
“As the world’s biggest importer of illegal wood, and in light of extensive irrefutable evidence that Chinese companies are complicit in driving destructive illegal logging and timber smuggling, China needs to move beyond unenforceable voluntary guidelines and take unequivocal actions to prohibit illegal timber,” Wadley said.
Failure to do so could hurt the credibility of Chinese firms trying to sell wood products in markets that have banned imports of illegally sourced timber.
“The guidelines do not offer any reassurances to importers in the US and EU carrying out due diligence that timber products imported from China can be proven to be legal,” said EIA.
“The perpetuation of voluntary approaches to promote legal timber trade maintains an uneven and uncompetitive playing field for the increasing number of responsible companies in China already working to exclude illegal timber from their supply chains. Such companies will find it increasingly difficult to compete with companies trading products made with illegal timber, in ways that structurally penalize legal timber traders. A prohibition on trade in illegal timber is in the interests of those responsible Chinese businesses.”
Recently cut rosewood tree in the rainforest of Madagascar
A series of EIA reports over the past few years have linked illicit logging in Mozambique, Myanmar, and Madagascar to China’s demand for timber products. Rosewood from Southeast Asia and Madagascar has been particularly targeted as a material for luxury furniture.