Jan 12, 2021 / 09:26

Vietnam curbs illegal timber import following US probe

The Hanoitimes - Hanoi doubles fine and applies the maximum prison sentence of 10 years for violators of illegal timber trade.

The Vietnamese Government is cracking down on illegal timber imports from countries such as Laos and Cambodia after the US initiated investigation on the allegation of Vietnam’s illegally-harvested or -traded timber.

 Illegal logging in central Vietnam. Photo: Daidoanket

The Government has doubled its fine for such activities to about US$22,000 with the jail sentence as long as 10 years, according to Do Xuan Lap, chairman of the Vietnam Timber and Forest Product Association.

In another move, Vietnam has been buying more timber from the US, Mr. Lap said in a recent interview with Bloomberg. He said the import might increase by 15% this year.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Do Anh Tuan, the spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said Vietnam bought about 40% of its timber from the US in 2020.

In early October, the US Trade Representative (USTR) announced the timber investigation.

“A high tariff will seriously damage our wood industry, but it will also hurt US companies,” Mr. Lap said.

A 25% US tariff on Vietnamese wood products will “devastate” the industry and its 10,000 workers," he noted.

The US is the biggest market for Vietnamese wood products, representing an estimated US$6.5 billion in 2020, about half of the nation’s total agricultural shipments to America last year, said Mr. Tuan.

Vietnamese wood-furniture makers, whose customers include Walmart Inc. and Ashley Furniture Industries Inc., will buy as much as 1.3 million cubic meters of wood in 2021, up more than 60% from that in 2019, according to Mr. Lap.

In a phone talk with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer last week, Vietnam’s Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh said the investigation could cause many undesirable effects, damage bilateral relations, and have negative impacts on thousands of businesses, and millions of workers and consumers in Vietnam and the US.