Russia has been a significant supplier of birch plywood to the EU with over 1.3 million cubic meters annually but after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Russian origin wood and wood products have been prohibited by EU sanctions since 9 April 2022 (full force after 10 July 2022). Russian birch plywood has also been subject to EU's definitive anti-dumping duties since 10 November 2021. Yet, different techniques are used, and imports continue, resulting in violating and circumventing various applicable legal rules.
European market operators are reporting that Russian, and potentially Belarusian, birch plywood continues to enter the EU using various techniques, such as transshipment, minor product alterations in third countries, false declarations of origin and consignment.
The techniques relied on include but are not limited to the following:
- Pure transshipment - birch plywood is rerouted via third countries with a fraudulent declaration of origin, hiding the shipment from Russia. Some of the third countries in question do not have production capacity that would allow them to supply identified volumes to the EU.
- Minor alterations and origin fraud - minor alterations to Russian birch plywood take place in third countries as a basis to declare a different origin. The operations are likely too minimal to confer origin, and in any event, they are only aimed at circumventing applicable restrictions and do not comply with applicable due diligence requirements.
- Declaration of a false CN code to falsely classify the birch plywood as a different product, to have the product fall outside the scope of restrictions. The use of this technique is now less likely than before, due to the broadened product scope of sanctions.
The purpose of these techniques is to prevent detection of illegal materials by masking the illegal origin of the material or replacing the sanctioned customs category with something else.
In addition to circumventing sanctions, the activity results in anti-dumping duty circumvention, as consequence of origin or classification fraud.
Call to action
The best way to fight illegal import and unfair competition is to stay vigilant, especially in cases where your company is approached by new sellers from new regions. If you come across situations, which raise red flags of illegal activity, they should be reported to the local authorities without delay. In most countries the first point of contact is with the Customs.