China and VPA countries share experiences stopping illegal trade in timber
Chinese policy makers and timber industry members met for the first time with representatives of five African countries and Indonesia to enhance cooperation in a global effort to stop illegal logging and related trade to foster sustainable forest management at a workshop in Beijing on 30 - 31 October.
‘China is committed to trading in timber products that are legal according to the legislation of the producer country,' said Chen Shaozhi, director of the Research Institute of Forestry Policy and Information of the Chinese Academy of Forestry, at the ‘International Workshop to Promote Understanding of FLEGT VPAs'. ‘China has become a major player in the global trade in forest products over the past two decades. Since 1983 the total value of our international trade has climbed from US $60 billion to more than US $400 billion. As a major player we are committed to strengthening forestry cooperation and to doing our part in the fight against illegal logging.'
The participating countries are all implementing Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with the European Union as part of the EU FLEGT Action Plan to combat illegal logging. They included Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia and the Republic of Congo.
FLEGT, which stands for ‘forest law enforcement, governance and trade' brings together demand-side and supply-side measures to combat illegal logging. China has engaged in this effort since 2009 through a Bilateral Coordination Mechanism with the EU.
During the workshop, the countries shared their experiences with VPA negotiations and implementation.
‘The work that we are doing in the Republic of Cameroon to ensure the legality of our forest products for the EU market will also enable us to ensure the legality of our growing exports to China,' said Jean Avit Kongape of the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife. ‘We appreciate China's invitation to share information and collaborate to ensure legal trade, good forest governance and sustainable forest management.'
The visitors from VPA countries also informed Chinese participants about their progress in implementing legality assurance systems that will make it possible to verify that their timber exports are legal.
‘When our VPA is operational we will be able to provide Chinese importers with FLEGT-licensed timber that is guaranteed as legal,' said Harrison Karnwea, interim managing director of Liberia's Forestry Development Authority. ‘We hope China will use its buying power to support the fight against illegal logging by supporting VPAs and favouring FLEGT-licensed timber in its domestic and export markets.'
Chinese policy makers gained insight about the work done by the six timber-exporting countries and said they were impressed by the efforts. China shared information about its work to promote responsible forestry practices by Chinese businesses overseas through the development of several measures, including a new Guide on Sustainable Overseas Forest Trade & Investment by Chinese Enterprises.
The workshop participants recommended the Guide be updated to include legal timber definitions and timber legality assurance systems of VPA countries. They also suggested that the Chinese government distribute this guide in FLEGT VPA countries where China has significant investments, namely Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo and Liberia.
Industry leaders described how Chinese enterprises are meeting international requirements forlegally harvested timber by adopting timber certification schemes and undergoing annual verification audits. Participants also recommended that companies use a business-to-business approach where timber associations set up a network of buyers and suppliers. This network could help support communication on the importance of legal sourcing, VPA developments and emerging market requirements.