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Timber smugglers won’t heed China’s voluntary guidelines

LONDON: Massive flows of illegal timber stolen from forests around the world will not be stemmed by voluntary industry guidelines currently being developed by the Chinese Government, environmentalists have warned.

In formal comments recently submitted to the Chinese Government and published today, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has recommended the guidelines be replaced with a principled and legally enforceable ban on illegal timber trade into and within China.

EIA’s comments were made in response to draft “Guidelines for Overseas Sustainable Forest Products Trade and Investment by Chinese Enterprises”, issued by China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA).

In recent years, EIA has published a series of damning investigative reports exposing the methods and scale of illegal logging and timber smuggling driven by Chinese timber companies around the world.

Jago Wadley, EIA Forest Campaigner, said: “As the world’s biggest importer of illegal wood, and in light of extensive irrefutable evidence that Chinese companies are complicit in driving destructive illegal logging and timber smuggling, China needs to move beyond unenforceable voluntary guidelines and take unequivocal actions to prohibit illegal timber.”

The EIA report First Class Crisis – published in July – shows how timber smuggling for the Chinese market has led to Mozambique suffering a 93 per cent illegal logging rate and tax losses of US$146 million in what is the world’s second least-developed nation. It is now China’s biggest African timber supplier.

In June, the EIA briefing Myanmar’s Rosewood Crisis revealed how rampant demand for luxury furniture had transformed Myanmar into China’s biggest rosewood supplier worldwide, with the likely consequence of two species becoming commercially, if not actually, extinct in the very near future.

And May’s EIA report Routes of Extinction documented how Chinese demand for illegal luxury Siamese rosewood has sparked a violent crime wave resulting in the deaths of hundreds of forest rangers and loggers while pushing the species to the brink extinction throughout the Mekong.

The December 2012 EIA report Appetite for Destruction estimated that China imported at least 18.5 million cubic metres (m3) of illegal timber in 2011 – enough to fill the Beijing Olympics’ Bird’s Nest stadium more than six times over.

In January 2013, China’s biggest timber trade federation, the CTWPDA, urged the Chinese Government to ignore EIA’s calls for principled legal reforms. EIA is concerned the association has promoted the adoption of the voluntary guidelines.

“With Chinese Government officials having already indicated that a prohibition on illegal timber will eventually be instituted, any delay for more voluntary measures would merely perpetuate forest crime and undermine legitimate traders”, added Wadley.


Interviews, footage and still images are available on request; please contact Forest Campaigner Jago Wadley via [email protected] or call +44 (0) 20 7354 7960.



1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.

2. Read the draft “Guidelines for Overseas Sustainable Forest Products Trade and Investment by Chinese Enterprises” at

3. Read EIA’s formal comments in English at

4. Read EIA’s formal comments in Chinese at

5. EIA’s comments respond to the draft “Guidelines for Overseas Sustainable Forest Products Trade and Investment by Chinese Enterprises”, which were outlined at the International Workshop on Promoting Legal and Sustainable Trade and Investment of Forest Products, organised by China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA) in Shanghai between March 25-27, 2014.

6. Read and download:
I. First Class Crisis: China’s Criminal and Unsustainable Intervention in Mozambique’s Miombo Forests at
II. Myanmar’s Rosewood Crisis: Why key species and forests must be protected through CITESat
III. Routes of Extinction: The corruption and violence destroying Siamese rosewood in the Mekong at
IV. Appetite for Destruction: China’s trade in illegal timber at
V. EIA’s Response to China Timber & Wood Products Distribution Association (CTWPDA) “Public Statement in Response to EIA Report Appetite for Destruction” at


Environmental Investigation Agency
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Tel: +44 207 354 7960