23rd Session of the CITES Plants Committee - Geneva - 24th-27th July 2017
Instruments manufacturers in force in Geneva
Missioned by CSFI and representing APLG for the guitar sector, I have just returned from the CITES Plants Committee, which was held at its headquarters in Switzerland from 24th to 27th July. I was accompanied by my colleagues, Fanny Reyre-Ménard, violin maker and vice-president of CSFI, and Michael Jousserand, R & D engineer at Buffet-Crampon and representing CAFIM (Confederation of European Music Industries, the equivalent of a European CSFI).
The challenge of this Plants Committee
Since January 2nd 2017, the manufacturers of musical instruments have been impacted by the new CITES regulation introduced at Cop17, which has listed all species of rosewood (Dalbergia) and Bubinga (Guibourtia) into CITES Appendix II in an annotation named # 15 that includes finished products and therefore musical instruments.
Administrative, customs services and transport dysfunctions have had a rapid and devastating impact on musical instruments containing Dalbergia wood international trade, which declined by 20% in the first quarter of 2017.
The repeated meetings since the beginning of the year between the CSFI and the CITES managment authorities in France and the European Union in Brussels have enabled us to start a long process of contacts making and lobbying in order to clearly identify our professions and their issues.This led us to write, in preparation for this Plants Committee, an information document which was sent by the European Union to the 164 participants of this Committee.
This meeting in Geneva was undoubtedly a key and decisive event for the continuation of our action until the Cop18 deadline in 2019. It is indeed during CoP18 that CITES can, as we hope, modify the Dalbergia and Bubinga regulation, which can only be made during the Conferences of the Parties.
Our information document (like all CITES documents) is available for download on the CITES official website.
Four days of plenary and intersessional meetings
The days were intense and all lunch breaks and some dinners were sacrificed for intersessional meetings or improvised meetings between observers. To sum up, CITES organizes a Conference of the Parties named CoP every three years. It is at this conference that the regulations are enacted for 3 years, until the next CoP. Between two CoPs, Plants and Animals Committees are organized in Geneva. Their work is then drafted and studied during the CITES Standing Committees.
We have reached the first stage - the Plants Committee one - and will then have to participate to the Standing Committee from November 27th to December 1st, 2017 and the one in October 2018 in Sochi (Russia) to ensure that our proposal to amend the # 15 CITES annotation is presented during CoP18 in Sri Lanka in 2019.
Below is the CITES calendar before Cop18.
The Plants Committee
Among the 164 participants in the Committee (see below), we were part of a dozen of private sectors observers, including 6 of the instrumental sector (CAFIM, CSFI, League of American Orchestras, CF Martin, Taylor Guitars, International Society of Violins and Bows Makers). The musical instrument manufacturers sector was the most represented industry and craft sector during this Committee.Indeed, no furniture company concerned by Dalbergia / Guibourtia regulation was present, except for an american association IWPA (International Wood Products Association).
Moreover, France embodied the widest range of musical instruments with three families of instruments represented : quartet (Fanny), wind instruments (Michael) and guitars (myself).
Below, the Committee participants:
What you need to remember from this Plants Committee
The information document prepared by CSFI and CAFIM and transmitted by the EU to the Committee participants has had a very large impact and has strongly favored our identification among the observers of the Committee. During our whole stay, and several times, the presence and the mobilization of our sector were welcomed in plenary session by the president of the Plants Committee (Mrs. Adrianne Sinclair), the Secretary general of the CITES (Mr. John E. Scanlon), by the European Union (Mrs. Hélène Périer), the chairman of the Standing Committee Working group on Annotations (Ken Farr), and also by many countries and observers.
It should be noted that no modification of the # 15 CITES annotation must be expected before CoP18, only its interpretation may be reviewed in order to harmonize the reading that is done by the different countries. This amended version could be validated by the next Standing committee at the end of 2017 and mightS then come into force.
What will be presented to the Standing Committee in November (you will find the full text to download here) :
Regarding the interpretation of the “non-commercial” term
3. It is recommended that the following transactions are considered as “non-commercial”:
i) the cross-border movement of musical instruments for purposes including, but not limited to, personal use, paid or unpaid performance, display, or competition (e.g. on a temporary exhibition, instrument is returned to the country where the instrument is normally held).
Regarding i) it is recommended to explore further options about exhibitions when the instrument does not return to the country of export (e.g., for tradeshows)
ii) the international transport or sending of an item such as a musical instrument, for the purpose of being repaired is considered as a non-commercial transaction, since in that case the item will remain under the ownership of the same person and that such transport will not lead to the sale of the item. The return to the seller or manufacturer of a product under warranty after sale service should also be considered as a non-commercial transaction.
iii) the sending of a shipment containing multiple items sent for one of the above purposes (e.g. a shipment of musical instruments being jointly sent for the purpose of being repaired), considering that the individual portion of these wood species present in each item weighs less than 10 kg and would therefore, if traveling separately, qualify for the exemption;
iv) the loan of specimens for exhibition in museums, competition or performance purposes.
Regarding interpretation of the term "10 kg per shipment"
4. For shipments for non-commercial purposes, it is suggested that this 10 kg weight limit is interpreted as referring to the weight of the portions of the items in the shipment made of wood of the species concerned. In other words, the 10 kg limit should concern the weight of Dalbergia/Guibourtia portions contained in the items of the shipment, and not the total weight of the shipment.
The next steps
The CITES Secretary General in person seems to be convinced by the necessity of an exemption for musical instruments. He specifically asked us to send him our recommendations by the end of August.
We therefore met with all participants of the musical instrument sector to organize a task force and draft a joint proposal to be sent to the CITES Secretariat before the end of August!
It is premature to tell you more about this proposal but it is clear that it will have the aim of getting the musical instruments out of this CITES regulation at Cop18.
Thank you for supporting our associations. The fight continues and is far from over!