Protecting the environment with intelligence

EIA response to criticisms of Appetite for Destruction

In November 2012, EIA released Appetite for Destruction, a report detailing how China is now the world’s biggest importer and consumer of illegal timber, and exposing Chinese companies involved in securing illegal timber from supplier countries such as Mozambique, Myanmar and many others.

2012 Appetite for Destruction coverThe report can be downloaded in English here and in Chinese here.

EIA called on the Chinese Government to prohibit illegal timber in the Chinese market, and to stamp out crime and corruption in timber procurement.

In January 2013, the China Timber & Wood Products Distribution Association (CTWPDA), the largest timber trade federation in China, posted a statement regarding EIA’s Appetite for Destruction report on its website in both Chinese and English.

Download the CTWPDA statement here.

The CTWPDA’s statement was critical of EIA’s report, questioning the data and approaches used by EIA in reaching our findings. It further expressed its opposition to the adoption of any of EIA’s recommendations by the Chinese Government.

EIA has in turn responded to the allegations of the CTWPDA statement; you can read our response in full below or download it here in English and here in Chinese.

 Environmental Investigation Agency Response to the China Timber & Wood Products Distribution Association “Public Statement in Response to EIA Report Appetite for Destruction

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) formally notes the January 2013 Statement issued by the China Timber & Wood Products Distribution Association (CTWPDA) in response to EIA’s November 2012 report Appetite for Destruction: China’s Illegal Timber Trade. EIA welcomes the CTWPDA intervention, and in the interests of dialogue wishes to respond.

The CTWPDA claims EIA’s report was biased and overstated, and that it does not adequately recognize efforts in China to reduce illegal logging and the associated illegal timber trade. EIA stands by its findings, based on detailed research and investigations.

However, EIA is encouraged that the CTWPDA statement does acknowledge the issues outlined in Appetite for Destruction are of concern, and notes the references made to various initiatives launched in China to resolve the issue.

Further, EIA agrees with the CTWPDA’s position that “China’s combat against illegal logging and associated trade should focus on … avoiding illegal timber import[s]” into China. Working to eliminate illegal timber imports is the core goal of EIA’s forest campaign in consuming nations, including China, which would appear to support a stated goal of the CTWPDA.

However, there do seem to be differences of opinion on how to eliminate the illegal timber trade in China. While CTWPDA believes that industry initiatives alone can solve the problem of China’s illicit trade in timber, EIA contends that government intervention is needed.

EIA’s report made one core recommendation: calling on the Chinese government for legislation prohibiting illegal timber in the Chinese market.

EIA’s other related recommendations included: instituting a cross-ministry coordination body mandated with eradicating the illegal timber trade; supporting proposals to protect endangered timber species through CITES; reciprocating forestry and trade laws of China’s trade partners; criminalizing the bribery of foreign officials by Chinese companies; working to ensure bilateral agreements on illegal timber with trade partners are meaningfully implemented; and eliminating illegal timber imports by Chinese State Owned Enterprises.

EIA is concerned that the CTWPDA’s Statement appears to oppose these basic and principled recommendations. Indeed CTWPDA’s statement on our report says that the CTWPDA “would not like to see NGOs like EIA influence … the Chinese government into introducing policies or regulations that would hinder the healthy development of Chinese timber and wood product industry”.

EIA believes that the CTWPDA’s position here implies that ongoing illegal timber imports are essential for the “healthy development” of the Chinese timber sector.

It equally implies that wilfully ignoring the laws of trade partners, allowing continued bribery in producer countries, and allowing continued illegal timber imports by state owned companies are all in the best interests of China’s timber industry, and that they be maintained as policies of the Chinese government in order to sustain China’s manufacturing base at any cost.

EIA fundamentally disagrees with such a negative portrayal of China’s timber sector.

Indeed, it is our belief that continued crime and corruption is inherently unhealthy in any sector, and that the recommendations in Appetite for Destruction will help make China’s timber trade healthy, while facilitating continued access to regulated timber markets such as the EU, the U.S., and Australia – all of which have legislated against illegal wood sales in their markets in recent years.

Overall the CTWPDA statement makes general points, and avoids making any comment whatsoever on the damning substance of EIA’s undercover investigations into law breaking by Chinese timber companies in numerous countries. Rather than attacking the bearer of bad news, EIA would encourage the CTWPDA to ensure its members are not involved in the illegal timber trade.

EIA’s experience from over a decade of encouraging European, North American, and other governments to combat the illegal timber trade has provided some key lessons.

The first lesson is the vital importance of real leadership from industry and trade associations in reforming timber markets. The types of initiatives to reduce illegal timber trade that were outlined in CTWPDA’s Statement, including voluntary trade association purchasing policies and codes of conduct, are important starting points in displaying such leadership. They demonstrate that responsible traders can operate legally, and that they want to do so in markets that offer no advantage for traders of illicit goods.  However, this alone is not enough. Voluntary actions do not stop criminal activities and corruption, nor address them when they occur.

The second lesson EIA has learned is that until markets structurally provide a level playing field in which responsible traders of legal product can flourish, voluntary industry initiatives to exclude illegal timber alone have no real chance of sustainable success. In the EU, for example, responsible timber trade associations realized this (albeit after denying the problem for years), and in partnership with NGOs published clear statements calling for government legislation to prohibit illegal timber, so as to level the playing field. Sending a clear message to governments that they supported legislation, and that they needed it to compete, was ultimately central to the success of industry initiatives.

EIA hopes the CTWPDA can play a similarly progressive leadership role in reforming China’s timber import sector, and encourages the organization to take strong principled positions in both its policy development and public communications

The third key lesson is that clear principled legislation by governments is ultimately the core driver of improved business practices in the private sector. In both the EU and the US, it was undoubtedly the threat of and eventual implementation of legal prohibitions on illegal timber trade that both consolidated and incentivized credible implementation of the various voluntary initiatives developed by industry and trade associations in the preceding years.

Responsible wood trade associations can show governments the way, but ultimately their efforts will be undermined if governments do not legislate to prohibit illegal trade. Legality must not be a voluntary consumer choice in the world’s biggest timber market, and nor should the world’s biggest timber trade associations be advocating for the preservation of illegal timber as a consumer choice.

Regardless of the commendable trade reform initiatives briefly outlined in the CTWPDA Statement, none of them seem to have prevented the types of timber sector crimes that EIA have exposed in Appetite for Destruction.

None of these initiatives have ever resulted in any seizure of demonstrably illegal timber imported into China in contravention of the laws of China’s trade partners. Indeed, China still has no legal mechanism to seize timber illegally harvested in or exported from trade partner’s jurisdictions – clearly highlighting the limits of voluntary industry measures operating in a wider unregulated and often crime-riddled market.

Assuming the CTWPDA seeks to exclude illegal timber from the Chinese market, EIA takes this opportunity to recommend steps the CTWPDA could and should take to help protect its more responsible members from the unfair advantage enjoyed by traders in criminal wood.

The Timber Importers & Exporters Sub-committee of the CTWPDA should:

  • Compile the laws on timber production, trade, and export from key timber suppliers to China, and communicate these to its members. This should include clear communication on laws that are being routinely broken by companies supplying Chinese buyers, or by Chinese companies themselves, including log export controls from countries such as Indonesia, Mozambique and Myanmar.
  • Develop protocols for excluding companies from the CTWPDA where companies do not respect the laws of supplier countries, or buy from companies who flout these laws. Building such exclusion policies into the association’s codes of conduct will give them teeth where lacking, and send the message to government that the carrot, so to speak, must be complemented with the stick.
  • Issue a principled and public statement to the Chinese government indicating that the CTWPDA supports and seeks the introduction of a prohibition on trade in illegal timber in China, which covers imported timber. Such a Statement should also seek support from other relevant timber importing associations in China’s major markets.
  • Initiate a structured and formal multi-stakeholder dialogue exploring the need for legislation that prohibits placement of or trading of illegal timber in China’s market, and what form such legislation should take. Such a dialogue should include the State Forestry Administration (SFA), the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), the Ministry of Trade, national and international civil society organizations, and the private sector.

EIA looks forward to further dialogue with the CTWPDA over measures needed to exclude illicit timber from the Chinese market and the leadership role industry associations can play in this vital endeavour.

EIA Forests Campaign, February 2013.

 

调查署回中国木业和木制品流通协会对《毁灭的欲望》报告所作的声明

环境调查署(EIA,下同)对中国木业和木制品流通协会(CTWPDA,下同)在2013年1月对EIA在2012年11月发布的《毁灭的欲望——中国的非法木材贸易》报告所作的声明作出正式回应。EIA欢迎CTWPDA 的介入,秉介开启对话的兴趣,EIA希望作出以下回应。

CTWPDA的声明称,EIA的报告是有偏向的和夸大的,并且没能够充分认识到中国在减少非法砍伐和非法木材贸易上所做出的努力。在细致研究和调查的基础上,EIA坚持自己所公布的调查结果。

但是, CTWPDA在声明中承认了《毁灭的欲望》这一报告所勾勒的情况值得引起警惕, 并且援引了已经在中国国内实施的、旨在解决这些情况的诸多行动,EIA为此备感鼓舞。

尤其是,EIA同意CTWPDA声明的以下立场“中国在打击木材非法采伐及相关贸易方面的工作重点应该⋯⋯规避进口非法木材风险的能力上”。EIA森林工作组的核心目标是在木材消费国(包括中国)清除非法木材的进口贸易,这看上去应该与CTWPDA所列的目标一致。

但是,对于如何清除在中国的非法木材贸易,双方看似存在着不同的意见。CTWPDA相信单凭木材行业自发的行动就能解决中国的非法木材贸易问题,但EIA坚信,政府的干预是必须的。

EIA报告中的核心建议是:呼吁中国政府采用立法手段严禁非法木材进入中国市场。

EIA其他相关的建议包括:设立一个跨部级的协调机构致力于清除非法木材贸易;支持通过CITES提交的保护濒危树种的动议;尊重中国贸易伙伴的森林和木材法并作出相对应的立法回应;惩罚向外国官员行贿的中国公司;确保与贸易伙伴所签署的有关非法木材的双边协议得到了有效的执行;以及清除中国国有企业进口非法木材的现象。

令EIA感到不安的是,CTWPDA的声明看似反对以上基本建议。确实,CTWPDA在针对我们的报告所作的声明中宣称“我们不希望看到EIA等非政府组织⋯⋯给中国政府施加不良影响,从而制定阻碍中国木材与木制品行业健康发展的政策法规。”

EIA相信CTWPDA在此的立场暗示了,持续的非法木材进口对中国木材和木制品行业的“健康发展”来说是必需的。

这同样也暗示了,故意忽略贸易伙伴的法律、纵容企业在木材原产国行贿以及国有企业持续进口非法木材这些行为都是符合中国木材行业的兴趣的,并且会在中国政府的有关政策中得以保持,以力争保持中国作为制造基地的地位。

EIA彻底反对这种对中国木材业的负面描述。

确实,我们相信持续的犯罪和腐败行为在任何行业都是不健康的。我们在《毁灭的欲望》这一报告中的建议能够帮助中国木材行业健康发展,协助其持续获得规范的木材市场,如欧盟、美国和澳洲市场的准入——这些市场都已在近年立法禁止非法木材的进口。

总体来说,CTWPDA的声明发表了综述意见,但却对EIA暗访所发现的中国木材公司在多国违反当地法律的调查结果避而不谈。与其攻击传达坏消息的信使,EIA建议CTWPDA多做内部工作,确保其会员不参与非法木材贸易。

从过去十年鼓励欧洲、北美和其他政府抗击非法木材贸易的经验中,EIA学到了以下关键教训。

首要教训是行业和行业协会在领导木材市场改革中的重要性。CTWPDA的声明中所介绍的几项减少非法木材贸易的行动,包括行业自律公约及相关认证标准,都是呈现这一领导力的具体措施。这些措施显示了,负责任的商人可以合法行事,并且他们愿意在一个不优惠非法商人的市场环境中合法行商。但是,仅有这些是不够的。自愿行为既无法阻挡犯罪行为和腐败,也无法在犯罪和腐败发生时发声。

第二个教训是除非市场能提供一个供所有负责的商人公平竞争的环境,单凭行业中以自愿为基础的举措来打击非法木材不可能是长久之计。例如在欧盟国家,负责任的行业协会意识到了这一点(尽管多年来他们始终回避这一问题),并且与非政府组织结盟敦促政府立法严禁非法木材,以提供公平的商业环境。木材行业协会向政府发出明确的信号,宣称协会支持立法,并且需要法律来保证公平竞争,这才是协会成功的最终核心所在。

EIA希望CTWPDA能在中国木材行业的改革中起到类似的进步性领导作用,并且鼓励该协会在政策制定和与公众沟通时都能采取强力而有原则的立场。

第三个教训是,政府立场明确的立法措施是改善私人部门商业行为的终极推动力。在欧盟国家和美国,毫无疑问地,正是禁止非法木材的立法之拟定和最终执行,多年来推动和刺激了行业和行业协会制定自愿行业行动。

负责任的木材行业协会可以向政府明示前路,但若最终政府不以立法严禁非法木材贸易,木材行业协会的努力也会被削弱。在中国这世界最大的木材市场,合法性一定不能是一个自愿的消费选择。世界最大的木材行业协会也不应该提倡保留非法木材作为消费选择之一。

尽管CTWPDA在声明中简要介绍的一些行业自发行动是可取的,但无一可以用于避免EIA在《毁灭的欲望》报告中揭示的这类木材行业犯罪行为的发生。

这些行动从未能缴获那些违反贸易伙伴国的法律而进口到中国的木材。确实,对于那些依据贸易伙伴国的法律裁定为非法砍伐、非法出口的木材,中国尚未有法律手段能将其缴获——这充分显示了在缺乏规范以及罪犯滋生的市场中,自愿基础上的行业措施的局限性。

假设CTWPDA也致力于将非法木材驱除至中国市场之外,EIA借此机会向CTWPDA建议其能够也应该采取的行动步骤,用以帮助其负责任的会员免受因非法贸易而产生的不公平待遇。

CTWPDA的中国木材进出口商分会应考虑:

Ÿ 遵守主要木材供应国关于木材生产、贸易和出口的有关法律,并且将有关法律介绍给其会员。其中应该明确介绍的,是一些向中国买家供货的公司、以及中国公司本身经常违法的法律条文,例如印度尼西亚、莫桑比克和缅甸的原木出口限制。

Ÿ 制定CTWPDA的排除协定,当会员公司不尊重供应国的法律、或者从不尊重这些法律的公司那里购货时,CTWPDA能够根据协定将该会员排除在协会之外。将这类的排除政策归纳到协会的行为准则中,可以给协会以回击的能力,并且向政府发出以下明确信号,即扶持政策必须有清肃政策相伴。

Ÿ    向中国政府发出一份有原则的公开声明,宣称CTWPDA支持和期待在中国制定禁止非法木材贸易、包括非法木材进口的法律。这项声明也应争取获得中国主要地区市场的相关木材进口协会的支持。

Ÿ   发起一场利益相关者参与的有组织的正式多边对话,探索将非法木材排除在中国市场之外的立法的多方需求,以及讨论这项立法应以何种形式达成。此类对话应该包含林业局、商务部、国内外市民社会组织以及私人部门的参与。

EIA期待与CTWPDA的进一步对话,共计将非法木材排除在中国市场之外的必要措施,商讨行业协会如何能在这一关键步骤中扮演领导角色。

EIA森林活动组,2013年2月

 

 

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