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2013 Assessment Findings

The Chinese government has made notable progress in its efforts to tackle illegal logging and associated trade.

Although the government has yet to introduce a legal framework that prohibits the import of illegal wood-based products, current efforts to develop a national timber legality verification system are encouraging. Active engagement with a number of other consumer countries has laid the foundations for a more coordinated approach to curbing the global trade in illegal wood-based products. Plans for the establishment of bilateral trade agreements with key supplying countries are to be commended.

Efforts by the government and industry associations to promote sustainability certification among. Chinese companies have resulted in the rapid growth of chain-of-custody (CoC) certification. However, China is still lagging behind other major timber-importing countries in terms of the level of uptake.

These developments are likely to have had an impact on the volumes of illegal wood-based product imports into China: although the volume of illegal imports is estimated to have increased since 2000, the share of such imports in the volume of overall imports is estimated to have declined. However, this share remains high compared with the other timber-importing countries included in this assessment. At the same time, significant discrepancies in trade data suggest that China continues to be an important market for illegal wood-based products, particularly high-value hardwoods.

2010 Assessment Findings

The 2010 assessment found that China’s imports of illegally-sourced wood had increased dramatically between 2000 and 2004, before subsequently declining. The country remained the world’s largest importer of illegal wood in terms of volume and 20% of overall imports were estimated to be of illegal origin. However, per capita imports of illegal wood were lower than any of the five consumer countries studied.

The Chinese government was engaged in addressing illegal logging and trade, and it had held formal discussions with both the EU and the US on this issue. However, the government response still lagged behind that of most consumer and producer countries studied. The number of companies with chain-of-custody certification for handling certified sustainable wood quadrupled between 2006 and 2010, but remained very small relative to the size of the country’s industry. A lack of necessary skills, a price-focused business culture and an insensitive domestic market were all impeding efforts to exclude illegal wood from supply chains.

A large proportion of China’s imports were unprocessed and came direct from producer countries, which makes eliminating illegal timber from supply chains easier. Therefore, the 2010 assessment concluded that introducing a public procurement policy for timber and legislation requiring evidence of legality for all timber traded on its markets would be feasible.