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Japan: Act Aims to Promote Trade in Legally Produced Timber

(July 28, 2016) Japan’s Act on Promotion of Distribution and Use of Legally Logged Wood Products was promulgated on May 20, 2016.  (Act No. 48 of 2016, OFFICIAL GAZETTE (in Japanese).)  Under the new Act, wood product companies may apply for registration, certifying that they will apply measures to trade only in legally produced timber in their countries of origin, with Japanese government-licensed institutions that can certify such companies.  (Id. arts. 8 & 9.)  The standards for qualification as such a registered company are set by the government.  (Id. art. 6.)  The registration must be renewed every five years.  (Id. art. 12.)  Companies that falsely claim to be registered companies are subject to punishment of a fine of ¥300,000 (about US$2,850).  (Id. arts. 13-3 & 37.)

There is a separate system designed to tackle illegal logging. In 2006, the government amended the Basic Policy on Promotion of Procurement of Environmentally Friendly Goods (Cabinet Decision (Feb. 2006), Ministry of the Environment website (in Japanese)) under the Act on Promoting Green Purchasing (Act No. 100 of 2000, EGOV (in Japanese)).  The 2006 Basic Policy introduced a government procurement policy favoring wood products and products derived from wood that have been harvested in a legal and sustainable manner.  (Cabinet Decision, supra.)

Environment groups state that the 2006 procurement system only covers a small part of the consumption of wood products in Japan. Also, they claim that the new Act cannot obligate businesses to use legally logged woods; it merely promotes such use.  (Jun-ichi Mishiba, [Notice] Enactment of “Act on Promotion of Distribution and Use of Legally Logged Wood Products,” (May 19, 2016), Green Purchase Network website, (in Japanese); Editorials, Cracking Down on Illegal Logging, JAPAN TIMES (May 1, 2016).)