In formal comments recently submitted to the Chinese Government and published today, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has recommended the guidelines be replaced with a principled and legally enforceable ban on illegal timber trade into and within China.
EIA’s comments were made in response to draft “Guidelines for Overseas Sustainable Forest Products Trade and Investment by Chinese Enterprises”, issued by China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA).
In recent years, EIA has published a series of damning investigative reports exposing the methods and scale of illegal logging and timber smuggling driven by Chinese timber companies around the world.
Jago Wadley, EIA Forest Campaigner, said: “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.”
The EIA report First Class Crisis – published in July – shows how timber smuggling for the Chinese market has led to Mozambique suffering a 93 per cent illegal logging rate and tax losses of US$146 million in what is the world’s second least-developed nation. It is now China’s biggest African timber supplier.
In June, the EIA briefing Myanmar’s Rosewood Crisis revealed how rampant demand for luxury furniture had transformed Myanmar into China’s biggest rosewood supplier worldwide, with the likely consequence of two species becoming commercially, if not actually, extinct in the very near future.
And May’s EIA report Routes of Extinction documented how Chinese demand for illegal luxury Siamese rosewood has sparked a violent crime wave resulting in the deaths of hundreds of forest rangers and loggers while pushing the species to the brink extinction throughout the Mekong.
The December 2012 EIA report Appetite for Destruction estimated that China imported at least 18.5 million cubic metres (m3) of illegal timber in 2011 – enough to fill the Beijing Olympics’ Bird’s Nest stadium more than six times over.
In January 2013, China’s biggest timber trade federation, the CTWPDA, urged the Chinese Government to ignore EIA’s calls for principled legal reforms. EIA is concerned the association has promoted the adoption of the voluntary guidelines.
“With Chinese Government officials having already indicated that a prohibition on illegal timber will eventually be instituted, any delay for more voluntary measures would merely perpetuate forest crime and undermine legitimate traders”, added Wadley.