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ClientEarth Communications

1st November 2017

Communities & forests

Japan proposes new system to reduce illegal timber trade

Japan is joining the efforts of the EU, US and Australia in developing laws to stop illegally harvested timber from entering their markets.

Since May 2017, a new law has been in force in Japan that aims to tackle the high levels of illegal timber being sold in the country. As one of the largest importers of tropical timber, Japan has a critical role to play in reducing the trade of illegal timber internationally.

While these laws try to do the same thing, there are some important differences.

In the EU, US and Australia, all businesses must exercise ‘due diligence’ to reduce the risk of importing illegally harvested timber products. Due diligence is an obligation of companies to check the risk of illegality in their timber supply chain. Companies that break the law risk facing penalties for non-compliance.

In Japan, all businesses are encouraged by the law to use legal timber, but there is no sanction if they do not. Only businesses who voluntarily register with the government have an obligation to check the legality of the timber they import or trade, or risk losing their registration.

Voluntary systems mean less incentive for companies to comply with the law, which means less protection for the planet.

ClientEarth has developed a table with key information to compare the Japanese, EU, US and Australian laws. This overview of the four import regulations may be particularly helpful for timber operators to understand the different requirements of the laws in each jurisdiction.