China - illegal imports and exports
Source: roundwood equivalent volumea for groups of products supplied from specific countries in the given years, estimated from official statistics, multiplied by estimates of their illegal content
It clearly shows the probable importance of the USA as a market for illegal wood-based products and begs questions about the actual intent of the US President's "Initiative against Illegal Logging" - which, although in many ways welcome - does not appear to seek to address the USA's own illegal imports (and its role in driving illegality).
The analysis indicates that the import value of the illegal wood-based products which the USA is likely to import from China alone during 2006 is in the order of US$3.5 billion (mainly attributable to wooden furniture), roughly 200 times greater than the sum allocated to the USA's initiative against illegal logging initative.
During 2006, China was probably the world's leading importer of illegal timber and one of its principal suppliers of illegal timber.
China - illegal
Neither the State Foresty Administration nor the Ministry of Commerce appear (willing or) able to take responsibility for the manufacture and trade of illegal wood-based products. The clear and increasing weakness of Beijing relative to local government is a major handicap to both these institutions.
The following percentages are based on those which are estimated in "Which 10 Bilateral Flows Have Most Salience to International Effort Against "Illegal Timber"? They pertain solely to China's (production and imports) in 2007 - other percentages might be approriate in other years or for other importing countries. Indeed, China's imports from any given country are likely to contain a greater proportion of Illegal Timber than any those of other importing country.
Brazil: 70% (China's
focus is almost entirely on tropical timber)
China - illegal
There is some validity to assertions that, if China exports any illegal timber, then it does so merely to meet demand for this in the countries to which those exports are destined. Such statements should prompt those destination countries to refuse to permit the import of wood-based products made in China if these are not credibly certified as being legal. Doing so would place much of China's timber industry, and those parts of China's paper industry which are associated with Indonesia, at risk. However, China accounts for an increasing share in the High Risk timber imports of several countries.
A few minutes' targetted analysis of UN Comtrade statistics shows clearly that China accounts for most of the growth in world trade in timber and that its timber exports are rising at about 30% per annum. Further, China appears to doing very little effectively to reduce its production (e.g. in Yunnan) and imports of Illegal Timber. It is therefore remarkable that the much praised EU FLEGT initiative appears to have assigned a very low priority to establishing a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with China. Indeed, China is probably the only country whose exports of Illegal Timber to the EU are rising.
The species from which the wood-based products which China exports in greatest quantity tend not (yet) to be declared in national trade statistics. A large proportion of those exports comprises commodities (notably furniture) for which, unlike most other major trading nations, China and its main partner - the USA - choose not to declare weight or other physical measure of quantity.
In order to overcome these shortcomings in trade statistics, assumptions have been made - most notably that the total roundwood equivalent volume of tropical, Chinese, Russian, North American and rubberwood in the trade in wooden furniture from China to the USA are 20%, 20%, 30%, 20% and 10% respectively. Analysis of China's timber imports from the USA and China's timber exports to the USA indicates that most of the latter probably derives from forests other than in the USA.