Why I’m cautiously hopeful about China’s efforts towards regulating timber imports
In 2012, when I first started researching China’s illegal timber imports, related news or information in Chinese was scarce. Six years on, however, a study co-authored by a Chinese government research institution offers a flicker of hope. China may be heading in the right direction and joining a growing global community who prohibit illegal timber imports by law.
The recently published summary of an EU-China joint study identifies options that China could adopt to ensure the legality of imported timber. The study reflects a growing understanding of the challenge China faces. On one hand, China is currently the largest timber market without any legislation prohibiting illegal timber imports. On the other, China needs measures that suit a large and complex emerging economy. For example, China imports more logs than any other country and, therefore, is more directly exposed to illegal logging.
Mandatory measures such as laws and regulations are the most significant of the seven options identified in the joint study. This would oblige companies to carry out checks on the legality of their timber imports and penalize them for not doing so. If implemented effectively, mandatory measures would safeguard China’s global reputation as a responsible trading partner. It would also benefit its own timber industry by reassuring buyers in countries with laws against illegal timber, including its two largest markets, the EU and U.S., that products from China use only legal wood. The world’s forests, on which China’s timber industry depends, would also win as they’d be less vulnerable to the destruction caused by illegal logging.