Implications of the EU Timber Regulation for American hardwood traders

The upcoming EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) has potential to significantly influence hardwood trade flows and practices in the EU.

As a result, AHEC has taken a very close interest in consultations surrounding the EUTR which is due to be fully enforced across the EU from 3 March 2013. There are challenges to be faced to ensure efficient and effective implementation. However, AHEC believes that if the law is interpreted sensibly and applied judiciously, it offers a significant opportunity for the whole timber industry.

Ever since the EUTR was first proposed in 2008, AHEC has argued that consumer country regulations targeting illegal wood in supply chains should not be seen as mechanisms to increase state control over the global wood trade. Rather they should act to create a level playing field. Laws like EUTR should positively benefit those producers demonstrating minimal risk of illegal supply. These producers should be given increased market access without imposition of significant new additional costs.

This is essentially what the EUTR sets out to achieve. It does this by building on existing best practice for responsible timber procurement in the private sector. It takes as its starting point credible risk assessment so that mitigation actions like third-party legality verification and certification are effectively targeted on areas of higher risk. EUTR requires all operators that first place timber on the EU market to implement a due diligence system to minimise the risk of any illegal wood entering their supply chains.

To drive implementation of effective due diligence systems, EUTR imposes a prohibition on operators trading products derived from illegally harvested timber within the EU. However, operators are innocent unless proven guilty. There is no obligation to positively prove legality in order to place timber on the EU market. Instead, European authorities must prove that a timber product derives from an illegal source to prosecute under the prohibition article of EUTR.

If implemented effectively, the EUTR could provide the foundation for more proactive marketing of the wider environmental benefits of using wood. It could overcome once and for all lingering doubts about the legality of wood products – doubts which undermine the reputation of the whole industry.

LCAAHEC has prepared two briefing documents to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the EUTR and to facilitate efficient implementation in relation to American hardwoods. These include: