As China’s timber consumption slows, timber industry seeks information on timber legality around the world

China is a major player in the international trade in timber products, but a slowdown in the domestic economy and the decline in the global economy since 2012 have affected timber consumption in China. This was one of the topics raised during the 3rd Global Timber & Wood Products Trade Conference held by the China Timber and Wood Products Distribution Association in Guangzhou on 16–17 September.

Participants from wood product enterprises, timber-processing companies, NGOs, international organisations and forestry industry associations from 14 countries discussed market trends and the effects of new market requirements on the timber sector. 

Some participants observed that European buyers appeared keen to work with suppliers that could provide legality documentation, which enables buyers to comply with the EU Timber Regulation. They noted that European companies appear to be working towards building and maintaining long-term cooperative relationships with suppliers who can ensure the legality of the timber products they export.

The Chinese timber industry has shown an interest in new global developments in timber legality. Workshops held on the sidelines of major industry fairs such as the Shanghai International Furniture Exhibition and PaperWorld China 2013 saw strong participation by company and association representatives. These workshops informed participants about the EU FLEGT Action Plan, VPAs and the EU Timber Regulation, as well as requirements from other markets such as the United States. 

Members of the Chinese timber industry welcomed these events, saying that they provided credible and up-to-date information on the new market requirements, which they see as essential for their businesses. Many industry leaders said that, even though they had heard about the EU Timber Regulation, they still needed to learn more about VPAs. 

To help meet this need, the Chinese Academy of Forestry (CAF) and the EU FLEGT Facility organised a workshop in Beijing on 30–31 October to share information about timber legality verification systems and VPA-licensed timber, and to improve the Chinese business sector's awareness and understanding of these processes in the African countries in which they are working. The workshop also served as a forum for participants from VPA countries to learn more about China's efforts in combating illegal logging and the associated trade in both the public and private sectors.