CTI Blog

CTI Blog - Values and Value: getting the message right 

This guest blog post is by Dougal Driver, CEO of Grown in Britain

 

This November will see the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of the Forest, which enshrined rights to royal forest access for ‘free men’ of the time. A modern day Tree Charter has been created for the anniversary, aiming to reaffirm the connection between Britain’s people and its forests through ten principles.

These  include recognizing economic and employment potential alongside the roles of conservation, health and wellbeing that forests can provide. Of greatest concern to us at Grown in Britain is that society comes to value the right trees for the right reasons.

British timber was formerly seen by timber traders and distributors as a somewhat poor relation to imported stock. After massive investment by all the big producers across Britain in the last 20 years, that perception is now well out of date. Some of the big mills here in the UK operate at a standard certainly equal to, if not slightly ahead of, major mills in other parts of northern Europe. Kilning and quality control, and greater availability, have contributed to British timber representing just shy of 40% of the UK’s timber usage by volume in 2015, according to the latest TTF statistics. British timber’s economic value is therefore undisputed.  

The language used in many other forums where trees are discussed, however, still shows a gap in public understanding, which we must all work harder to close. Forest cover is talked of as being ‘lost’, with the implication that it’s ‘gone forever’, and trees are still talked of as being ‘cut down’, with its derogatory implications, rather than ‘harvested’. Grown in Britain is starting to tackle some of these perceptions, but we need the whole timber industry’s help in doing so. 

At home, at social gatherings, or even when taking family and children for walks, we should all play our part in helping others to understand that, for example, trees for harvesting and trees as valued habitats can exist in close quarter. We need to ‘normalise’ this concept of trees being harvested and replanted wherever we go in life, if the raw material that sustains our industry is not to be erroneously valued and our industry wrongly targeted by public opinion. British wood producers and an increasing number of timber merchants are choosing to highlight positively their connection with sustainable British timber through the Grow in Britain licensing scheme. 

The right to access forests for recreation, health and wellbeing, plus the benefits of doing so, and the environmental outcomes that forests support, are rightly valued by all. Where effort is needed is to dovetail these sentiments with industry’s capability to maintain such societal values alongside undertaking economic harvesting and production.  

We hope CTI supporters and stakeholders will all sign up to the Tree Charter principles. At the same time, we hope you’ll also help Grown in Britain to underline the economic value of our forests and woodlands by supporting more British producers, and bringing more British-grown timber into your supply chains.  

It’s the only way to ensure that values and value can co-exist sustainably for the future. 

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-values-and-value-getting-message-right]

CTI Blog - Brexit: The future of trade and the EUTR

This guest blog post is by David Hopkins, CTI Director and Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF)

 

The triggering of Article 50 this week has started the long process of negotiation and withdrawal from the EU which could have major implications for the timber industry.

It was good to see, therefore, that the formal letter dispatched by hand to President Tusk was far more conciliatory and constructive in tone than much of the triumphalist rhetoric which has been circulating in recent weeks and months.

Whichever side of the debate one sits on, it is hard to deny that this will be a complicated affair, with emotions running high from all participants. It is in the UK best interest to acknowledge this and approach the talks positively, calmly and with everyone’s best interests at heart.

Certainly, the TTF view is that we should focus efforts on making this transition as smooth as possible for our trade. To do this, the most important part of the future arrangements with the EU must be to negotiate a mutually beneficial customs arrangement to ensure the same trading access as is currently the case. This would include ensuring the same regulatory environments for our industries and supply chains. 

Our view is that, if we cannot complete this process within the two year time frame – which seems a very tight window given the complexity of the negotiations - then a transitional arrangement must be agreed.

To be clear, it is not just tariffs that are the issue. Timber attracts relatively low tariff levels even under WTO rules. But, the potential to slow down trade due to suddenly having to make customs declarations and border inspections on all goods entering the UK would significantly slow down trade – especially as HMRC and other agencies are unlikely to have the staff or the know-how to make this work.

As our largest timber trading partner and an EU member state, Sweden’s views on the future of UK-Sweden trading relations must be taken into consideration. On March 15, Sweden’s National Board of Trade published a report summarising potential likely options for trade procedures between the EU and the UK. The report concludes that it is likely that any alternative situation negotiated will be less favourable than the current, with increased administrative requirements, higher costs and ‘reduced predictability in the flow of goods’.

Since this is an issue which will affect many industries in the UK, it should be given careful consideration. The exit negotiations must take these potential future burdens into consideration to ensure that trade can continue, freely and unhindered after we have left the EU in whatever form.

The next step within the UK following the triggering of Article 50 will be the implementation of ‘The Great Repeal Bill’ to repeal the EU Communities Act 1972 and begin transferring EU law into UK law for the interim period. With this in mind, there are a number of key items of EU legislation affecting the UK timber trade which will need to be addressed, mostly notably the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).

The TTF and its membership believe strongly in the value and effectiveness of EUTR and advocate its retention post-Brexit.

The wording of the Article 50 letter stated: “We should…prioritise how we manage the evolution of our regulatory frameworks to maintain a fair and open trading environment, and how we resolve disputes.”  This is to be welcomed and supported and should not be undermined for supposed short term gain.

The timber industry is not alone in wanting to maintain the current regulatory status quo with Europe. The CBI, Chemical Industries Association, Institute of Directors, the City of London and many others have called for much the same thing. The regulatory regimes are priced into most of their business models and they see little to gain from undermining them.

TTF has already begun a programme of meeting with ministers and civil servants from key government departments such as Defra, BEIS and DfID about potential impacts to the timber trade. It is our view that the timber sector can show a very positive picture of free trade with nations across the globe, based on a common set of principles and regulatory regime.

As the talks continue, we will keep members updated and will be running regular MP visits to members businesses around the country.

We applaud the Prime Minister’s view that the UK should be seen as an innovative modern, global leader in international trade and want to ensure this is the outcome that prevails.

However, if the UK does want to be seen as a modern leader in global commerce, rather than a hand-delivered letter to Brussels, should Mrs May not have just sent an email? 

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-brexit-future-trade-and-eutr]

CTI Blog - Speaking with one voice to grow UK Timber Industry

This guest blog post is by David Hopkins, CTI Director and Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF)

This feature originally appeared on the Timber Trades Journal

 

Recent months have certainly seen major political upheaval. But, with this comes great opportunity.

The “un-democratic” nature of the European Union has been rejected and in its place we have a new Prime Minister appointed by a handful of MPs from one ruling party, without all that bother of voting or asking the electorate. It’s certainly efficient.

One thing is for sure, we can no longer use Europe as an excuse for inaction in our own economy and our own society. As we enter a new phase of trading arrangements, our politicians will have to show, very clearly, what they are doing and how their policies are making a positive difference right here at home.

As I write, the new Prime Minister is assembling a new team and putting forward a new agenda for Government. So far, the mood music sounds good with housing, skills and an industrial strategy at the centre of her opening speech.

With the policy ground shifting beneath our feet, it is important that the timber sector stands up to make its own voice known in this debate. We have a lot to offer. But, to do this effectively, we must stand together as a united timber supply chain.

That is why it has been so important that BWF has now joined the Confederation of Timber Industries (CTI) as an equal partner with STA and TTF. Working together we will be using the umbrella of the CTI as a focal point for our public affairs work, to promote the opportunity that the timber sector offers as a high-performance, low-carbon growth sector.

Each trade association is already leading on a variety of issues, together we can present them as a single voice.

The TTF will be leading on sustainable procurement, responsible sourcing and international & domestic trading issues. We are a proud trading nation with great links to producer countries across the world and are already working with DfID on a number of projects to aid links with key supply routes. The TTF will be ensuring that whatever the future looks like outside the EU, we maintain our international outlook and sustainable credentials.

The BWF has been leading on skills development, helping create ‘Centres of Excellence’ across the country. This is vital if we are to campaign to put skilled trades back at the heart of the UK economy and at the heart of every community. There are currently around 2,000 woodworking apprentices in the UK, the highest ratio of apprentices in construction for any sector. If we are to grow the sector we need to grow the pool of skilled labour it requires.

The STA has been doing sterling work in improving productivity throughout its expanding manufacturing base in the UK, as it works to take even greater market share and help deliver much needed sustainable housing across the country.

Together these actions – and others – will help us grow the £10 billion supply chain in the UK and gain the political recognition we deserve as a vital trade and manufacturing sector.

The first focal point for this will be our Parliamentary Conference and drinks in November. I look forward to seeing you there.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/ttf-blog-speaking-one-voice-grow-uk-timber-industry]