Looks like we can keep loving on Rosewood! CITIES looks to be lifting its ruling!

Great news for guitar makers and guitar lovers worldwide as rosewood restrictions for musical instruments are lifted. After three years of work and representation from a global coalition of companies and industry associations, (including our AMA) the CITES meeting in Geneva has voted in favour of allowing exemptions for trade and movement of finished musical instruments containing rosewood. Imports and exports of finished musical instruments, finished parts and finished accessories will no longer need a CITES permit. The exception applies to all species of dalbergia except Brazilian rosewood, which remains on CITES Appendix I.

The restrictions had resulted in more than two years of disruption to an industry that was an unintended consequence given that rosewood in musical instruments accounts for a very small proportion of the trade in rosewood. Musicians too, have been effected in what they can travel with and also what they can buy internationally. Suppliers have had the extra time and cost of import and export permits, and many major brands including Martin and Taylor were significantly affected given the short notice period given back in 2016. Martin’s signature product famously featured rosewood back and sides. The industry supports conservation of these precious resources, but has always maintained it was not the problem.

The Australian Music Association’s Rob Walker said, “in a time when pressure mounts on profitability in our industry, the removal of significant administrative requirements will be welcome news to many wholesalers and manufacturers of musical instruments.”

“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,” noted Heather Noonan, vice president 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.”

Local guitar manufacturer Maton guitars are also thrilled with the result. “We’re delighted with the decision by CITES to exempt finished instruments from the Appendix 11 listing of Indian Rosewood,” says Pat Evans, Maton’s Manager -R&D, Projects, Product Development. “While we fully understand and support the need for control over the harvesting and sales of Indian Rosewood, the unintended complications for the guitar industry were a major problem. We feel the result of these changes is that pressure is maintained on the sourcing and distribution raw materials where it needs to be, but removes the cumbersome and costly monitoring of finished instruments. We will continue to apply rigorous scrutiny on the origins of all woods we use in the manufacturing of our instruments to help ensure to ensure an ethical and sustainable future for guitar manufacturing.”

The Coalition has made a compelling case to authorities and all four items that were the focus of our groups’ efforts were adopted. They are;

Prop. 52 Dalbergia Annotation #15
The proposal by Canada and the EU was accepted by consensus, with the part c exemption for finished musical instruments, parts, and accessories – and the related definitions that we supported – fully intact! Revisions were made to part b. of the annotation to expand the weight limit to 10kg per shipment, to accommodate handicrafts, both shipped and as personal effects. The proposal also includes a mandate for the Secretariat to undertake a study to assess the impact of Annotation #15’s exemption for finished products up to 10kg per shipment and finished musical instruments, parts, and accessories. If undertaken, the results of the study would be reviewed by the Standing Committee, to potentially inform an amendment proposal for CoP19. In other words, the discussions about further improving Annotation #15 will continue in the next three years.

It is of note that the Annotations Committee will also be re-established to review all annotations. And, in a separate decision, a mandate was created to study rosewood and potentially convene related workshops before CoP19.

The new exemptions goes into effect after 90 days from adoption.

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.
The Cedrela listing will not have effect for 12 months from adoption.

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 an 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 with the intention that it will address the non-commercial cross-border movement of musical instruments, and result in a proposal for CoP19 to reduce the burdens associated with the CITES Musical Instrument Certificate.