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China is the Top Buyer and Exporter of Illegal Timber

China is the Top Buyer and Exporter of Illegal Timber


On November 29, 2012, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released a new report, titled Appetite for Destruction: China’s Trade in Illegal Timber.  The report reveals China is the largest importer, exporter, and consumer of illegal timber in the world, all the while emphasizing how policies in China (and the world’s largest importers from China) add to deforestation in Southeast Asia. 

The EIA estimates, conservatively, that China imported 18.5 million cubic meters of illegal timber in 2011 alone.  Such estimates are worth $3.7 billion. 

The largest timber consumers in the world—the United States, the European Union, and Australia—have passed legislation in the last decade to help protect shrinking forests and particularly rainforests.  The largest producing countries like Indonesia have also increased enforcement efforts to deter illegal logging. 

Still, China proceeds to import and export a massive amount of illegal timber. 

Faith Doherty, head of the EIA’s Forests Campaign, paints a clear picture of China’s illegal timber campaign: “China is now effectively exporting deforestation around the world.” 

The true extent of China’s illegal timber campaign has been investigated by EIA field investigators since 2004 in places like China itself, Indonesia, Laos, Madagascar, Mozambique, Myanmar, Far East Russia, and Vietnam. 

Doherty stresses that further legislation and enforcement need to immediately target illegal timber trading in East Asia before it’s too late.  She states, “Any further meaningful progress to safeguard the forests of the world is being undermined unless the Chinese Government acts swiftly and decisively to significantly strengthen its enforcement and ensure that illegal timber is barred from its markets.” 

The report goes as far to say “China’s Government has done virtually nothing to curb illegal imports” while ensuring current policies create a steady supply from illegal logging areas. 

Currently, the US Lacey Act and the EU Timber Regulation target illegal wood products from China, but the EIA states that such regulations need increasingly enforced. 

The EIA’s report states China needs to take the following legislative and industrial steps:

·  create clear prohibitions against imports on illegal logs

·  let the Commerce and Foreign Ministries and the State Forest Administration (SFA) help stop illegal logging

·  know the specific laws on timber production and trade from all other countries

·  help protect threatened tree species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

·  work with Chinese companies overseas to make revised policies mandatory

·  mandate laws that criminalize Chinese companies that bribe foreign officials

·  stop the influence of state-owned enterprises that export illegal timber to China

Source: Environmental Investigation Agency