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International timber sector gathers at GTF Shanghai Summit

Over 100 delegates from throughout the international timber sector and associated organisations have gathered in Shanghai at the GTF Summit to discuss the range of current wood sector issues.

On the first day of the event, speakers addressed the topic Valuing the Timber and Forestry Resource. They looked at both how the wood industry worldwide can maximise the commerical potential of legal and sustainable forestry and timber production, while also educating and encouraging the market to place more value on timber and wood products and use them more extensively to substitute less environmentally sound raw materials.

Chinese speakers focused on the very rapid growth and development of their timber sector to become a world leader in wood consumption and timber products manufacture and international trade.

They highlighted the need for closer and more consistent communication and interchange on issues such as forestry certification and market legality requirements, particulalry with western consumer markets. They called for more international guidance, rules and codes of conduct on these issues, stressing the difficulty facing small to medium sized enterprises in particular in staying up to date on latest international developments.

One of the first day speakers Cindy Squires, chief executive of US-based International Wood Products Association (IWPA) said her organisation and other industry bodies were more than willing to work with China and Chinese companies to assist and guide them through these issues.

But Ms Squires also stressed that, at the end of the day, Chinese producers, like their US and other western counterparts had no alternative but to comply with the rules, such as the legality requirements of the US Lacey Act and America’s rules on wood products formaldehyde emissions.

“You are our companies’ brand partners, and as brand partners you should be standing behind your products in our market, and this includes understanding and embracing market requirements,”  she said.

“We can help you and advise you on what is acceptable in our markets, but there is no way around it, as there is no way around it for US-based companies.”

Ms Squires raised the case of US timber flooring trading specialist Lumber Liquidators currently facing a range of legal challenges concerning  emissions and legality requirements issues involving imported Chinese products.

“They are currently facing 108 law suits and all involve labeling issues to some degree,” she said. “Our suppliers must understand that labeling should not just say what you think the customer wants to say,It should accurately describe what that product is. If it says this is flooring made from oak sourced from that particular country and that it is CARB rules-compliant on emissions, then that is exactly what it should be.”

Mr Punja, Head of Sustainability at the UK Timber Trade Federation, said that transparency was key in all these vital trading issues.

“It is essential business to business, trade organisation to organisation, government to government,” he said. “It is also important that we in customer countries understand the approaches and systems on legality and sustainability that China is developing.”