IWPA backs Myanmar’s ‘consistent reform’

The US-based International Wood Products Association (IWPA) acknowledges that raising Myanmar forest management and timber legality assurance standards is a long-term effort. But it says recent ‘consistent movement toward reform’, which it has supported and has coincided with the country’s increasing democratization, has laid foundations for future progress.
“The last three years have seen rapid change in Myanmar, with its commendable moves toward democratic rule and reform,” said IWPA Chief Executive Cindy Squires.  “This has brought with it a relaxing of US and international economic sanctions and normalizing of trade.”
The latter, she added, included the timber trade, with the IWPA active in this period, working with the US State Department and industry, to raise awareness about the Myanmar log export ban and the need to reform the Myanmar timber sector more broadly.
“IWPA has also participated in three trade dialogue trips to Myanmar to increase understanding on both sides and Myanmar traders have travelled to the US to attend the IWPA Annual Convention and hear from the Department of Justice about US Lacey Act requirements,” said IWPA Chief Executive Cindy Squires. “These exchanges helped increase awareness in the Myanmar trade and government about the requirements of international trade and benefits of reform.”
Particularly welcome, maintains the IWPA, are recent moves by the Myanmar Forestry Department to allow for timber traceability to the forest.
“Our hope is also that these efforts lend support to the Myanmar/EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement discussions,” said Ms Squires. 
Importantly, the IWPA has also worked to facilitate direct trade with Myanmar.
“This helped immediately address concerns over non-sanctioned trade at Myanmar’s land borders,” said Ms Squires. 
Under the US Lacey Act, the IWPA explained, businesses are prohibited from importing or selling wood that has been acquired illegally and traders have to use ‘due care’ to ensure they do not inadvertently purchase illegally logged wood. However, unlike the EU Timber Regulation’s approach on due diligence, business is not given specific instructions on what due care comprises.
“So IWPA teaches principals of due care and compliance systems in our Wood Trade Compliance and Due Diligence Tools course,” said Ms Squires. “We also stress the need to conduct supplier visits as part of a due diligence system and have worked to help members understand the Myanmar system through our ongoing dialogue.”
Working closely with trade partners, including those in the US and EU, she concluded, Myanmar had made ‘great strides’ in forest and timber sector management and governance. 
“We now look forward to continuing to work with Myanmar as development of its timber legality assurance scheme moves forward,” said Ms Squires. “Our common objective is the management of teak and other wood resources so there is a long-term sustainable supply that provides benefits to the Myanmar people.”