China and Southeast Asian nations renewed their efforts for regional cooperation in the timber trade this spring, as environmental activists, government officials, and businesspeople gathered in Beijing for the Fifth Forum on Trade of Legal and Sustainable Wood in China from March 30-31.
The conference allowed participants to learn about and discuss initiatives being undertaken by governments, industries and NGOs in countries ranging from Vietnam to Gabon, while focusing on China’s central role in the international wood trade. The organizers of the conference— IUCN-China, Forest Trends, and the International Forestry Cooperation Center (IFCC) of the Chinese State Forestry Administration (SFA)—expressed hope that the meeting would foster a constructive informal network of stakeholders interested in working on this issue.
Timber certification and regulation quickly took center stage on the first day, particularly regarding the United States Lacey Act’s ability to use foreign laws to prosecute illegal plant importation. During his energetic presentation, US Department of Justice official John Webb stressed that, “The idea of the Lacey Act is not to impose our will on other countries, but to encourage other countries to enforce their will within their own territories.”
The day’s sessions also focused on how strict import certification standards by consumer countries, like the European Union, can both control illegal harvesting and promote a robust timber trade when paired up with domestic timber regulatory systems in wood manufacturing nations, such as Indonesia’s TLAS framework.
The conference’s second day honed in on the Indonesian-China timber trade, exploring how the two countries can facilitate trade in timber products for China’s growing domestic market while cooperating to support Indonesia’s strict regulatory system. Forestry, trade, and customs bureau officials and industry and NGO representatives animatedly discussed ways to build comprehensive bilateral engagement. Proposals included information sharing between enforcement agencies, relaxation of Indonesia’s outright timber export ban, and the finer details of supply chain management and certification within both countries.
Many participants left the meeting hopeful about the potential for the two countries to strengthen information sharing and coordination in pursuit of the dual goals of perpetuating a legal timber trade while managing and protecting the region’s valuable biodiversity.
IUCN and Forest Trends have held this series dialogue since 2007, creating a regular and open meeting place for constructive discussions about the international trade of sustainable and legal forest products between key producers, manufacturing and consumer countries. The conference was made possible by the support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
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Li Jia, Forest Program officier: email@example.com