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CITES Lifts Rosewood Permitting Requirements

September 24, 2019John MannNews0

Industry lobbying effort succeeds in reducing burdensome paperwork while affirming responsible sourcing of tonewoods.

Successfully lobbying CITES in Geneva (l-r) David Eynck, Paul Reed Smith Guitars; Cindy Squires, International Wood Products Association; Scott Paul, Taylor Guitars; Heather Noonan, League of American Orchestras; Frank Untermyer, C.F. Martin & Co., Inc.; Betty Heywood, NAMM; Jacques Carbonneaux and Fanny Reyre, French Musical Instrument Organization; Michael Jousserand, Confederation of European Music Industries; Rob Garner, Forest Based Solutions; John Bennett, International Association of Violin and Bow Makers; and Mike Bayer, Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.

News Article published in THE MUSIC TRADES magazine –

THE MUSICAL INSTRUMENT INDUSTRY cheered when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted at its 18th Congress of Parties held August 18 in Geneva, Switzerland to dramatically reduce the permit requirements for cross-border shipments of instruments containing rosewood. The move effectively reversed a 2016 ruling that required securing an export permit for every instrument exported by manufacturers, as well as instruments carried across national borders for personal use.

Under the newly approved revisions to “Annotation 15,” which covers trade in rosewood, instrument manufacturers will still be required to secure CITES permits for all unfinished imported rosewood logs, boards, and veneers. However, completed instruments, instrument parts, and accessories can now be shipped globally without the need for any CITES paperwork. Individuals will also be able to transport their instruments across borders without the need for permits.

The CITES vote, one of the rare instances when the organization actually reduced permitting, was prompted when instrument makers and associations including NAMM, the League of American Orchestras, CAFIM, the European music industry umbrella group, the International Association of Violin and Bow Makers, and the French Musical Instrument Association lobbied CITES to revise Annotation 15 for the past three years. Global customs organizations, overburdened by the permitting requirements, also advocated for streamlining the rosewood rules. In the U.S. alone, the 2016 regulations swamped the Fish and Wildlife Service, as CITES permit requests more than tripled to 60,000 annually.

The CITES rosewood regulations were abruptly put into place in January 2017, taking the music industry by surprise and significantly slowing global trade in guitars, woodwinds, and various stringed instruments as manufacturers scrambled to develop compliance protocols. Larger producers including Fender, Gibson, Martin, and Taylor had the scale to manage the new permitting requirements, but still struggled. Frank Untermyer, supply chain director at Martin Guitars, said the administrative burden on his company “could not be overstated.” Scott Paul, director of natural resource sustainability at Taylor Guitars, added that the rosewood regulation was hastily drafted and caused bureaucracies around the world to issue “an obscene amount of permits.” Smaller manufacturers and individual luthiers simply abandoned export markets.

“It’s likely that CITES may consider
other important wood species.
We need to remain engaged and vigilant.”

The rosewood regulations were prompted by concerns of over-harvesting tropical hardwood forests, spurred by the surging demand for rosewood furniture in China. However, the CITES committee was unaware of the fact that their permitting regime placed serious burdens on instrument makers and performers. Paul indicated that CITES was receptive to the instrument makers’ plea for relief “because we have a solid record of responsibly sourcing wood, and because we willingly supported permitting on unfinished wood.” The fact that the music industry accounts for approximately one tenth of one percent of rosewood consumption also had some bearing.

The CITES vote in Geneva is an unalloyed victory for the music industry. All those who trade in guitars, stringed instruments, woodwinds, and even pianos (rosewood is often used in piano hammers) have been freed from a cumbersome administrative burden. However, Paul says the industry shouldn’t get complacent. “It’s likely that CITES may consider other important wood species,” he says. “We need to remain engaged and vigilant.”



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