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Recent international trade patterns in timber products for the Verifor case study countries

Working papers

Written by Neil Bird

Working papers

A major driver behind the development of national verification systems is the expectation that exported timber may soon have to demonstrate that it has been produced in compliance with the laws of the producer country. For example, this is a key element of the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) being developed under the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan. The nature of timber product exports is therefore likely to be a key determinant of how different producer countries move forward this reform agenda.

The twelve Verifor country case studies encompass a wide range of situations, with different levels of exports, different key markets and differing recent trends evident. VERIFOR has examined trade across these countries, to help understand the different stages of legal verification to be found in each country.

    * Taken together a number of regional patterns emerge from this analysis, which may provide some insights regarding the likely development of national timber verification systems within the Verifor countries.

    * For the Central American countries, external trade drivers for improved forest governance are largely lacking. Therefore, if reform is to happen, it will depend more heavily on demand from national stakeholders, although other aspects of international policy (not trade) may be influential (e.g. human rights, biodiversity).

    * In West and Central Africa, timber product exports have not been rising in recent years and one major export destination dominates: the EU. It is of no coincidence that VPA negotiations are well advanced in both Ghana and Cameroon, reflecting an apparent strong desire by these countries to retain an important trading partner. The demand from China so prevalent elsewhere (even within the region) does not appear to be evident in either of these two Verifor countries.

    * Brazil is clearly an interesting country to watch. It is one of the major global exporters that has an important trade relationship with the EU – and one which appears to be growing – but it has yet to commence any sort of timber trading agreement with the EU. This is in contrast to the two other global tropical timber exporters, Malaysia and Indonesia, both of whom already have had prolonged (although as yet unconcluded) VPA negotiations with the EU.

Neil Bird