The European Timber Trade Federation (ETTF) was founded in 2009 as a merger of three other associations, each of which focused on an industry sector: plywood, hardwood and softwood. These associations now serve as sections of the ETTF. The ETTF represents the interests of wood companies in Norway, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Italy and Greece. The EFPI (the European Flooring Importer Association) is also an associated member.
Much like the American Hardwood Federation, the ETTF is not a membership of companies, but rather a federation for timber trade associations that also allows other interested parties to become associated with it. The ETTF plans to merge with The Fédération Européenne du Négoce de Bois (FEBO) next year, which will add four more countries to its constituency.
Andre de Boer is the Secretary General of the ETTF and is working on assisting companies, both in and out of the EU, navigate through the new European timber regulations. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about the European timber market and the new policies. We started with some general discussion:
Q: What do you see the main mission of the ETTF to be?
A: The European Timber Trade Federation (ETTF) promotes sustainable, efficient and socially responsible trade of timber to make wood an appealing, easy and innovative choice for raw material for various industries. The ETTF supports its members to reach the highest level of responsible and sustainable practices across the entire supply chain. You will also note that our objectives include making timber the best choice for the market-helping the market recognize the sustainability of the resource. We also encourage lower taxation on verified sustainable timber and have developed a code of conduct for our associated members. We want to promote responsible timber trade in all forms and in all ways.
Q: What is the state of the European forest?
A: I am not a forester, but, generally speaking, I know that the western European forests are in good shape. Actually most of them are either FSC- or PEFC-certified already.
Q: What is the state of the European flooring industry?
A: The flooring industry in Europe faces heavy competition from industries in other parts of the world. And it is already weak due to the financial crisis that hits specifically and very heavily on the building industry. Unfortunately, I would say that the parquet and flooring sector have seen better times.
Q: Do you see an opportunity for American flooring companies in the European market?
A: For me, it was good-I happen to have a cherry floor and it is really beautiful. But for the market in general, you'd better ask my colleagues of the EFPI. I tend to say that the current market situation is not favorable overall. Let us hope the economy improves for everyone.
Q: What do you think of the FLEGT program?
A: FLEGT is basically a very good idea, but given the results, or, rather the lack of results so far, maybe it is a bit over-ambitious. Nevertheless I hope and expect that important producing countries will in the longer run be able to deliver timber with an FLEGT license. That would make life easier for the importer.
Q: The new legality regulations are still being developed in detail. Do you expect them to be enforced in March 2013 as scheduled for every industry, or do you see a phased-in system, where they might start with some products but not all?
A: I do not see reasons to doubt about this that the EUTR will come into full force as scheduled on 3/3/13.