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Analysis of China’s trade with the EU and VPA countries 2007-2017

By EU FLEGT Facility and Forest Trends
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This paper assesses China’s forest product imports from FLEGT VPA countries and exports to the EU between 2007-2017, set within the context of China’s overall trade and market dynamics driving supply and demand for forest products.

The report shows how China’s closure of its own forests from harvesting has triggered a rise in imported forest products, such that imports are now at an all-time high even as exports continue to decline –indicative of a growing domestic market. Imports from VPA countries have increased more than 100% and now represent 15% of all China’s forest product imports. While the value of China’s exports to the EU peaked in 2017, they have stayed flat by volume. Over half of China’s forest product imports are bound for “regulated markets” – consumer markets that have issued measures to ensure only legal timber imports. However,  it remains challenging to trace wood material all the way from country of harvest (e.g. VPA countries), through manufacture in China  and ultimate export to the EU – a critical challenge for companies wishing to ensure compliance with consumer country import measures, especially if sourcing from countries with at high risk of illegal logging yet being harvested or processed in contravention of the law.

Commissioned by the European Forest Institute (EFI), this summarizes a longer analysis by Forest Trends and the Chinese Academy of Forestry produced as an output of the 2018 meeting of the EU-China Bilateral Coordination Mechanism (BCM) on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG). It is based on existing literature, and desk analysis of trade flows based on available China Customs statistics. The paper can also be viewed at