USA-Canada Wood Packaging Material exemption still exists, but for how long?

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By Don Neubauer, U.S. Regulatory Affairs

In 2004, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Plant Protection & Quarantine (PPQ) adopted the international standard for WPM, previously approved by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). The IPPC standard calls for most WPM to be either heat-treated or fumigated with methyl bromide in accordance with the “Guidelines for Regulating Wood Packaging Material in International Trade,” of the International Standards of Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM-15) and marked with an approved international mark certifying that treatment.

The USDA Final Rule requiring all persons using WPM in connection with importing goods into the United States to comply with IPPC standards became effective September 16, 2005.

On February 1, 2006, this enforcement moved to Phase II, with enforced compliance of the regulation requiring exportation of non-compliant WPM.

Full enforcement, Phase III, began July 5, 2006. Enforcement of the international standard has been conducted in accordance with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operational guidelines and procedures.

More information about WPM can be found on the CBP website:

Understanding the US-Canada exemption

Since the initial 2005 effective date, WPM made entirely of Canadian origin wood, or entirely of U.S. origin wood, has been exempt from the treatment and marking requirements in trade between the two countries. The exemption only pertains to WPM coming directly to the U.S. from Canada (as defined by USDA), or directly to Canada from the U.S. (as defined by Canada).

For purposes of enforcement of the USDA WPM regulation, CBP has decided the country of origin of the commodity is the country of origin of the WPM on all shipments coming from Canada, absent an indication to the contrary. In other words, WPM in shipments of Canadian-made goods coming from Canada will be considered Canadian and need not be marked, according to the exemption. However, WPM in shipments of Chinese-made goods coming from Canada will be considered Chinese WPM and must be treated and marked unless there is documentation to prove the WPM is of Canadian or US origin.

In that regard, the following (type) statement on the import documentation is considered to be acceptable: “All WPM associated with this shipment was harvested in Canada and made into WPM in Canada.” Note: If the WPM is of U.S. origin, or both Canadian and U.S. origin, the statement should be adjusted accordingly.

If the WPM to be used (in the shipment of Chinese origin goods shipped from Canada) has been treated according to ISPM-15 standards, it must be evident on the WPM, and the above-noted exemption statement would not be required.

Note: Even with the above-noted “actions,” the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Plant Protection & Quarantine (PPQ) inspectors always reserve the right to inspect the WPM on inbound shipments. If pests or contaminants are found, the shipments can still be detained or refused.

Elimination of the US-Canada exemption?

The United States and Canada have been discussing the elimination of this exemption for some time. In December of 2010, the USDA published a Federal Register Notice proposing to amend the regulations to remove the exemption that allows wood packaging material (WPM) from Canada to enter the  United States without first meeting the treatment and marking requirements of the regulations that apply to WPM from all other countries.

The USDA has not indicated when they expect to publish the final version of the rule. Any changes would first need to be published in the Federal Register, with at least a six-month timeframe prior to enforcement. Preliminary information from when this elimination talk was strongest in 2014 indicated the countries are considering a 2-year phase-in period to allow companies time to acquire kilns and treat surplus material.

Questions?

Livingston International, Inc. continues to monitor the possible elimination of the WPM regulation exemption between the US and Canada. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our US Regulatory Affairs group at usregaffairs@livingstonintl.com.

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