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CITES Adopts Exemption for Musical Instruments from Rosewood Restrictions

On Aug. 28 in Geneva, Switzerland, the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP18) voted to approve an exemption that will allow finished musical instruments, as well as parts and accessories containing rosewood, to be transported around the world without permits. This is a significant breakthrough for guitar makers,

The governing body, comprised of 182 countries and the European Union, also included an exemption for other finished rosewood products, such as small handicrafts, weighing less than 10 kilograms per shipment. The new policies will go into effect in 90 days and applies to all species of rosewood with the exception of Brazilian rosewood, which remains on CITES Appendix I. In the decision, raw material rosewood would remain regulated and subject to CITES permits granted by the management authorities of the individual countries and other governing laws.

“The consensus reached in Geneva this week and the new policies adopted by CITES parties are the result of more than three years of collaboration among international music stakeholders, government officials, and conservation leaders,” says Heather Noonan, VP of advocacy for the League of American Orchestras. “Musical instrument stakeholders have a lasting commitment to the goals of CITES, will remain at the table for ongoing conversations, and are committed to educating the music community globally about how compliance with CITES requirements will support both urgent conservation needs and essential international cultural activity.”

This issue dates back to 2016 and 2017 when the MI industry became collateral damage in an international effort to protect forests from the Chinese furniture industry. On Jan. 2, 2017, a new Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) regulation came into effect that restricts the exporting and importing of nearly all species of rosewood that are used in the making of guitars and other instruments. For MI dealers and manufacturers, this meant more headaches, paperwork, and permit applications in order to sell and ship instruments across international borders.

Charles Barber, the director of the forest legality initiative for the nonprofit World Resources Institute and a member of the rosewood working group shared that, “the exemption for finished musical instruments is a commonsense measure that resolves a key implementation barrier for the otherwise essential rosewood listing. It will remove a major administrative permit burden on CITES authorities that did not have any substantive conservation impact, while continuing to regulate the raw material that goes into instruments. CITES implementation resources can now better focus on the illegal and unsustainable global rosewood trade in furniture.”

“Manufacturers have a great responsibility to ensure we source material from responsible suppliers and aid in the fight for forest conservation and restoration,” adds Scott Paul, director of natural resources at Taylor Guitars and a working group member. “The music community, as represented at CITES meetings, fully supports CITES and looks forward to working closely with the Convention in the years to come.”

CoP18 included agenda items related to Dalbergia (Prop. 52 and Inf. Doc. 26), Cedrela (Prop. 57 and Inf. Doc. 27), Woolly Mammoth (Prop. 13 and Inf. Doc. 25), and the Musical Instrument Certificate (Doc. 53 and Doc. 56 and Inf. Doc. 23). The CoP18 considered new policies on each agenda item, resulting in the following:

Prop. 57 Cedrela
The proposal from Ecuador was annotated with #6 to require permits only for logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets, and plywood, with a limited application to neotropical species. This means that musical instruments containing Cedrela will not require CITES permits.

Prop. 13 Mammoth
The proposal was withdrawn by Israel, in response to objections from the Secretariat and Parties, primarily to do with the extinct species being outside the scope of the Convention. A new decision was accepted, directing the Secretariat - subject to external funding - to conduct a study on how trade in mammoth impacts trade in elephant ivory. If undertaken, the findings would be reported to the Standing Committee, which might inform proposals for CoP19.

Doc. 56 Simplified Procedures (relevant to the Musical Instrument Certificate)
A resolution was approved to initiate a new effort to streamline and simplify permit requirements for “the international movement of CITES specimens where the trade will have a negligible impact on the conservation of the species concerned.” This language was added and endorsed by the US and the EU and can address the non-commercial cross-border movement of musical instruments by formulating recommendations to reduce the burdens associated with the CITES Musical Instrument Certificate.

An industry working group coalition comprised of delegates from the following organizations have advanced and advocated a message of conservation as a means of business continuity and served as co-sponsors of a stakeholder luncheon, held on August 17 in Geneva: American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada; ANAFIMA - Brazilian Music Industry Association; The Argentinian Association of Musical Instruments Manufacture; Association of British Orchestras; The Australian Music Association; Bundesverband der deutschen Musikinstrumentenhersteller e.V.; C.F. Martin & Co.; Collings Guitars; Confederation of European Music Industries (CAFIM); Dismamusica; Fender Musical Instruments Corporation; ForestBased Solutions, LLC; French Musical Instrument Organization (CSFI); International Alliance of Violin and Bow Makers for Endangered Species; International Association of Violin and Bow Makers; International Federation of Musicians; International Wood Products Association; Japan Musical Instruments Association; League of American Orchestras; Live Performance Australia; Madinter Trade; Music Industries Association; National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM); Orchestras Canada; Paul Reed Smith; PEARLE*; The Recording Academy; The SOMM - Society of Music Merchants e. V.; Symphony Services Australia; and Taylor Guitars.

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Michael Raine is the Senior Editor at Canadian Music Trade. He is also a co-host of the popular Canadian Musician Radio weekly podcast.