Parliamentary question: Timber exports
Priority question for written answer P-002941/2021 to the Commission
MEP Engin Eroglu (Renew)
Timber is one of the most important raw materials in the energy and construction sectors, and for many other commodities. The current scarcity and the concomitant increase in the price of this raw material therefore have far-reaching economic consequences. These consequences are not limited to increasing production costs of products for which wood is a key raw material, but also have a massive impact on industries where the material forms part of the production chain. In the construction sector in particular, the impact of supply shortages is dire. Timber is a key raw material used in a variety of building processes and may, if not available for the execution of such a process according to schedule, delay an entire construction project for an indefinite period with the corresponding impact on the labour force.
The shortage of timber and the exorbitant prices charged for available supplies therefore call for rapid and decisive action. In order to resolve this pressing issue, it would seem reasonable to apply export restrictions to timber as a raw material. Regulation (EU) 2015/479 provides for such an approach in the event of a critical shortage of a raw material.
Hence my question:
Is the Commission considering temporary restrictions on exports of timber?
Answer given by Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis on behalf of the European Commission
The Commission closely follows the supply situation and price developments for timber and is attentive to stakeholders’ concerns in this regard.
While the current situation appears to be primarily driven by supply and demand imbalances in the economic recovery phase, it is also desirable to maintain undistorted trade in timber and wood products for the EU market to function properly.
The Commission pursues this agenda in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other international fora, and does not hesitate to challenge export restrictions by third countries affecting EU access to raw materials. For example, the EU recently has successfully challenged the Ukrainian ban on exports of unprocessed wood under the EU — Ukraine Association Agreement. The Commission also closely follows the developments with respect to a potential export ban on timber by Russia, and the European Union is raising it in the WTO(1) and bilaterally in technical discussions with the Ministry of Economic Development. The Commission is committed to monitor export restrictions that hamper the sustainable supply of raw materials and to tackle these barriers and therefore encourage stakeholders to inform on any other export restrictions adopted or under consideration by third countries.
In this context, export restrictions on the side of the EU would risk being counterproductive. Moreover, while Regulation (EU) 2015/479 on common rules for exports(2) as well as the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994(3) allow export restrictions in a situation of critical shortage of essential products, the conditions do not seem to be met.
The Commission will continue to follow closely the wood market and stands ready to take appropriate measures, depending on how the situation evolves.
(1)WTO Committee on Market Access and WTO Council on Trade in Goods
(2)Regulation (EU) 2015/479 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2015 on common rules for exports