VCN – According to timber importers, many wood shipments that have arrived at Vietnamese ports cannot be cleared due to a lack of import CITES permits issued by CITES Vietnam. Moreover, in the context of a sharp decline in domestic consumption and a sharp drop in wood prices, enterprises face many difficulties. For example, now they have to “carry” more fees for storing containers, yards, etc.
According to the Association of Vietnam Timber and Forest Products (VIFOREST), right after the 19th Conference of Member States of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES-COP19), on February 23rd, 2023, CITES Secretariat issued notice No. 2023/020 on the effect of the revised and supplemented CITES list. According to this announcement, the plant species added include species of the genus Doussie, Santalum, and Khaya, which are common in Africa.
As is customary, during the 90-day waiting period, trade in these plants will still take place. CITES specifies that a pre-conventional specimen is a specimen obtained (harvested) before the CITES regulations apply to specific species included in the CITES Appendix. Thus, a pre-convention specimen is a specimen that had left its natural habitat before the date the CITES regulations were applied. This is also confirmed in Clause 17, Article 3 on the interpretation of terms of Decree 06/2019/ND-CP of the Government of Vietnam on the management of endangered, precious and rare forest plants and animals. And implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
VIFOREST said that many Vietnamese timber importers had signed contracts with foreign partners, and the timber had left the port of the exporting country to the destination ports of Vietnam before the date the provisions of the CITES regulation came into force.
However, according to regulations, the documents for an import of CITES permits require an application for a permit and a copy of the document proving the pre-Convention specimen or a copy of the permit or certificate of the CITES Management Authority of the exporting country for pre-Convention specimens; or a copy of the export CITES permit, the certificate of hunting specimens issued by the competent authority of the exporting country for hunting specimens.
Under this provision, the documents for a permit shall include an application for a permit and a copy of the document proving the pre-Convention specimen. A bill of lading phytosanitary certificate are legal documents to prove pre-convention specimens. In 2017, West African Padouk wood was granted a CITES import permit by the CITES Management Authority of Vietnam for a shipment of wood leaving the export port while pending the CITES notice application with the documents for a permit only, including a CITES permit application and bill of lading.
According to VIFOREST, in compliance with the announcement of the CITES Secretariat, many timber importers have applied for CITES import permits, including enterprises that have submitted pre-conventional CITES permits issued by the exporting country but have still not been accepted by CITES Management Authority of Vietnam. CITES Vietnam requires enterprises to present the CITES export license of the timber exporting country and has not provided a satisfactory explanation for the refusal of the enterprises’ dossiers.
This leads to the situation that wood that has arrived at Vietnamese ports cannot be cleared due to a lack of import CITES permits issued by CITES Vietnam. Moreover, in the context of a sharp decline in domestic consumption, a sharp drop in wood prices, and many difficulties for enterprises, now wood importers have to ‘carry” fees for storing containers, storage yards and many other fees.
Faced with the above situation, VIFOREST proposed that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the General Department of Forestry and the CITES Management Authority of Vietnam consider and issue CITES import permits for imported wood shipments subject to CITES pre-conventional regulations to avoid timber importers from suffering significant damage due to changes of CITES.
It should also be added that each year, our country imports about 1 million m3 of wood from 20 African countries, mainly through European and Chinese intermediaries. Furthermore, implementing the Government’s Decree 102/2020/ND-CP detailing Vietnam’s timber legality assurance system (VNTLAS), Vietnam has pioneered the Voluntary Partnership Agreement on strengthening law enforcement, forest governance and trade in forest products (VPA/FLEGT).
In particular, the management of wood imports with risks related to countries in geographical areas has not been active, and high-risk species have been tightened. Timber importers have also seriously implemented their accountability (DDS) to ensure that imported wood is legal. So far, Vietnam Customs has not detected illegal timber imported into Vietnam.
By Xuan Thao/ Binh Minh