Impact of EUTR on Illegal Timber Imports
The European Timber Regulation (EUTR) was introduced to address trade in wood and paper from illegal or controversial sources. It places the onus on the European importer, and to a lesser extent other traders in the supply chain, to make the necessary checks to be able to ‘analyse and evaluate the risk of illegally harvested timber products derived from such timber being placed on the market’.
American good forestation practices actively support the aims of the EUTR
They are amongst the most stringent and regulated forestation practices in the world, which is likely to facilitate compliance for EU importers. It is extremely unlikely that products manufactured by APA member mills would ever contain any illegally sourced material.
While US exporters and manufacturers are not directly subject to the new requirements, they may need to supply additional, supporting material to enable their EU customers to comply with the EUTR. The U.S. Lacey Act Amendment of May 2008 has made it an offence within the U.S. to possess any plant (excluding agricultural crops but including wood and derivative products) “taken, possessed, transported, or sold” in violation of any relevant foreign or state law.
EUTR performance report
The UK and Germany impose stringent penalties on those who breach with a maximum unlimited fine for operators. According to the European Commission’s EUTR performance report, the UK, Belgium, Estonia and Germany (which also applies criminal penalties), have administrative fines of over one million Euros for offences relating to the prohibition of placing illegally harvested timber, and timber products derived from them, on the EU market.
To help ensure continuity, the UK’s Timber and Timber Products and FLEGT (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 is designed to ensure the principles of the EUTR (establishing a regime that prohibits the sale of illegally harvested timber and a licensing scheme to improve the supply of legally harvested timber) will continue to operate now the UK has left the EU.
Traceability, Due Diligence and Compliance
- The obligations on the importer/operator are such that being unable to satisfy the due diligence requirement (including being able to demonstrate compliance if called upon to do so) is a breach of the EUTR, even if the timber in question is legally harvested.
- The EUTR requires evidence of full product traceability and to achieve this, EU importers need to have a robust ‘due diligence’ system in place.
- This includes obtaining and providing information on your supply of timber products, including the full scientific name of the species, volume, country of harvest (and where applicable the concession of harvest or the right to harvest timber in a defined area) and evidence of compliance with relevant local or national legislation.
- The EUTR also requires a risk assessment of your timber supply. In practice, information from the manufacturer on origin beyond the country of harvest is required only when your ‘due diligence’ system indicates the risk of illegal harvesting varies between sub-national regions or between concessions within those regions.