New Vow: North America Ramps Up War on Illegal Logging

The world's largest trading block will operate joint public awareness campaigns across borders.

Thu 09 May 24


The world’s largest economic block is cracking down on conflict timber, illegal logging and trafficking with NAFTA 2.0 signatories funding research to “Advance Responsible Purchasing of Wood Products” – which will see the US, Canada and Mexico run joint public awareness campaigns. 

Known as the USMCA, the block accounts for 30% of global GDP, with the US and Canada, the largest and fourth largest timber and pulp producers, and Mexico, one of the global hot spots for illegal logging, trading 5 to 15 million cubic metres of illegal timber every year.

Wood Central can reveal that the 24-month project, which kicked off in January, is being administered by the CEC – a joint initiative of the US, Canadian and Mexican governments – and aims to “increase understanding and awareness of wood products; helping consumers support SFM (or Sustainable Forest Management) and contribute to the fight against illegal logging through their purchase power.”

According to Forest-Tends, 30-70% of all timber harvested in Mexico is illegal – footage courtesy of @aljazeeraenglish.

The research will examine market-based tools, including forest certification (FSC, SFI, and PEFC), and, most importantly, tackle gaps in supply chains and consumer awareness of at-risk products, whether pulp, paper, lumber, or mass timber.

“Public perception is at the core of the project,” the CEC said, “the project’s goal is to raise consumer awareness of the importance of SFM and how consumers can contribute to supporting SFM practices.” 

Focusing on consumers and their purchasing power, “the public awareness campaigns will seek to empower consumers at various levels of the supply chain who purchase wood products” by “helping them to become actors of the chain by promoting citizen participation in monitoring compliance with environmental legislation and by informing them about the negative impacts of illegal logging.”

The crackdown comes after a new report published by environmental group Trace this week calculated that, between 2021 and 2023, the US exposure to imports from deforestation is now at least 122,800 hectares – an area of tropical and subtropical forests comparable in size to the city of Los Angeles.

Described as "China's Manufacturing Black Box", logs are exported to China from the African basion - including Equatorial Guinea, the Republic of Congo and Gabon, are processed into thin wood veneer at China's sprawling production mills, are then manufactured into door skins at Chinese-owned plywood factories in China, Malaysia and Thailand before being exported to the US. (Photo Credit: EIA)
Millions of timber doors sold by the world’s largest door and window manufacturer, stocked in the world’s most famous home improvement chain, are now subject to illegal logging from one of the world’s most oppressive regimes. (Photo Credit: EIA)

Last year, Wood Central reported that 1.2 million timber doors sold in Home Depot stores across the US were caught up in the illegal trade of wood harvested from the African basin – including Equatorial Guinea, home to one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.

Described as “China’s Manufacturing Black Box”, the Environmental Investigation Agency reported logs exported from the African bason are processed into thin wood veneer at China’s sprawling production mills, then manufactured into door skins at Chinese-owned plywood factories across the Asia-Pacific before being exported to the US.

Whilst earlier this year, a Miami couple were sentenced to 57 months in jail for operating a US $65 million racket – illegally importing and selling plywood manufactured in China using Russian timber, violating the Lacey Act and customs laws.

According to court findings, the couple operated a sophisticated scheme to evade antidumping and countervailing duties on hardwood plywood products made in China by falsely declaring the species, country of origin or country of harvest of the wood from which the plywood was made. 

In May 2008, the United States Congress passed legislation to address the U.S. market’s role in the global illegal logging crisis, and accordingly, became the first country in the world to ban the import of illegally harvested wood and wood products – footage courtesy of @EIAEnvironment.

At times, they diverted plywood containers to be shipped from China to Malaysia or Sri Lanka, for example, where the wood was removed from the original containers and put into a second set of containers to conceal the product’s Chinese origin.

Running until January 2026, the US $300,000 project is co-funded by Canada’s Environment and Climate and Natural Resources Agencies; the Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, the National Forestry Commission and Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection in Mexico; and the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Forest Service.

As well as working with government agencies, it will work with the UN, the World Bank, FAO, the APEC Experts Group on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade, FSC, PEFC, SFI and the WWF.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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