Outcome of the workshop on trade measures and timber markets
“Regulations affecting the trade of timber products are
evolving quickly, and this evolution should be closely
monitored because of the impacts on the entire forest sector.”
So concluded the workshop on “Emerging Trade Measures in
Timber Markets”, organized by the United Nations Economic
Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) jointly
with the Economic Research and Statistics Division of the
World Trade Organization (WTO), on 23 March 2010 in
The workshop was a unique opportunity to get a comprehensive
overview of the increasingly complex regulatory framework
impacting trade in wood and wood products. More than 100
stakeholders participated from government, industry, trade
associations, intergovernmental and non-governmental
organizations and academia. There is currently considerable
concern and debate about the entire range of trade and traderelated
measures that are impacting the timber markets.
World trade in wood and paper products, including value-added
products, has doubled over the last 10 years. This has occurred
notwithstanding various policies and measures affecting the
timber trade. China is the motor of the global timber trade,
having become a major importer of roundwood and the major
exporter of value-added wood products such as wooden furniture.
China’s wood products exports expanded 5-fold from 2000 to
Tariff reduction is one of the objectives of the Doha
Development Agenda negotiations currently taking place under
WTO. Different proposals and views are currently under
Export taxes, such as those currently in place in Russia, act
unequally between different forest industry sectors and between
countries. As these taxes occurred during the global economic
crisis, it is impossible to accurately measure their economic
Some trade measures designed to improve domestic forest sector
development, in both temperate and tropical countries, have not
yet achieved their objectives.
Participants discussed the emergence of non-tariff measures
aimed at curbing illegal logging and trade in illegally produced
forest products and other trade measures favouring the use of
timber harvested from sustainably managed forests, e.g.
certification systems and public procurement policies. Such
measures are desirable as the issue of illegal logging and trade in
illegal timber products remains critical for the global forest
The approaches to this question vary from one country to the
other and the regulatory framework is still evolving. For
example, under the European action plan for forest law
enforcement governance and trade, Voluntary Partnership
Agreements are in the process of being negotiated with partner
countries. Internally, discussions on the draft due diligence
European Union regulation continue between EU institutions.
However, some participants cautioned against the possible
negative impacts on trade and undesired collateral effects on
some forest resources, notably in some developing countries.
They discussed the respective roles of measures designed to
fight against illegal logging and certification schemes.
Stakeholders agreed that these measures must be recognized
and coordinated internationally to promote fair competition
and efficiencies in forest products production and trade.
Subsidies, notably those that encourage renewable energy
consumption based on woody biomass, are an important issue
having either positive or negative impacts on different
stakeholders within the forest sector.
There are many different ways to subsidize an industry, e.g.
upstream subsidies, support to intermediate consumption or
support to final consumption. There are also difficulties linked
with the measurement of subsidies and the subsequent analysis
of their market effects taking into account externalities and
possible market failures.
Finally, participants recognized the importance of
phytosanitary measures required in the face of new risks of
pests. The International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures
number 15 (ISPM 15) concerning wood packaging material
was presented, in connection with the WTO agreement on the
application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures. The global
escalation of trade in all goods, often using wood packaging
and/or pallets, necessitates ensuring against introduction and
spread of harmful insects or diseases.
Participants noted that the economic and trade impact of
measures like subsidies, export taxes or non-tariff measures
merits more attention and research in the future.