There are lots of guides on how CITES, and its new regulations, may affect you as a guitarist who travels, sells and or buys second hand guitars independently. Project Music thought it might be useful for customers to have an insight into how it works in our store and why, if we are sending you a guitar made using a wood that is endangered and you live abroad or if the guitar has come from abroad, it may take a little longer….
CITIES reason for existing
CITES is an international agreement that has been in effect since 1975. Its goal is to ensure that the international trade of flora and fauna does not threaten the survival of a species or the health of the ecosystem it is being taken from. Nations participate in and adhere to CITES regulations voluntarily, but it is legally binding for those opting in. The EU opted in and each Party to the Convention must designate one or more Management Authorities who are in charge of administering their licensing system. England has a management authority based at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) Centre for International Trade in Bristol who are responsible for all CITES applications and issuing permits.
What is listed as threatened under CITES
CITES applies rules and controls on international trade concerning selected threatened species. In the case of Project Music and their guitars; this relates almost entirely to the wood involved in certain guitar builds. For the curious you can read about all the species covered by CITES in the three Appendices on the convention’s homepage, which are categorised according to the degree of protection they need. From our perspective the items we most commonly need to provide a permit for are guitars made using: Rosewood, Cocobolo, Bubinga, Koa, Okoume and certain types of Ebony.
The most common example is Rosewood (known as Dalbergia) which is a listed species that is frequently found on guitars we stock; especially on fretboards. These guitars will require import permits if coming from outside the EU and export permits too. Rosewood’s listing on CITES is actually to do with the incredible demand for China’s high-end furniture market, which lead to the deforestation of some Dalbergia species in countries in east Asia including Thailand and Vietnam (UNEP-WCMC, 2017). Even though only some Dalbergia species are threatened by the demand for Chinese furniture there is now a regulation on the entire genus of Dalbergia to ensure its protection and for the ease of understanding at global borders.
Project Music and CITES for new guitars containing a listed species
At Project Music we usually need to apply for a CITES license around three times a month, depending on stock requirements and customer demand. Examples of import applications for a license can be due to bulk orders from the USA of Suhr guitars with rosewood fretboards and examples of reasons for an export applications for a license can be because we are sending a Martin guitar, made with a listed species, to a country outside the EU. Each application can take up to a couple of weeks for a new guitar. With export licenses it also depends on the country we are sending it to and in certain
cases (as all countries have signed up with slightly different rules) some customers may have to act as importers when we sell a guitar to them.
Project Music always advises and encourages customers affected by these rules to check their own country’s recommendation on accepting imports before they agree to the sale. This is usually very simple and Project Music is always happy to provide advice on how you do this. If you find yourself in this situation, a good starting point is your countries own CITES Management Authority. You can look up the CITES contact in your country here.
Project Music and CITES for second hand guitars containing a listed species
When we have a second hand guitar from a part exchange we examine the tone wood and ask for as much history as we can from the customer. The reason for this is selling a second hand guitar on to a customer who lives inside or outside the EU can take much more time if there is a listed species in its construction or concern that there is a listed species that has been used for the tone wood or for a cosmetic finish. In these cases applications for a license can take 2 to 3 months.
Where this can becomes a difficulty, is when a customer brings a guitar for part exchange into the store and we can see that it contains Brazilian rosewood. A 1940s Martins guitar, for example, that is made with Brazilian rosewood will affect the part exchange. If we can prove its age and history there is scope but in some cases, depending on the quality, we may feel uncomfortable selling on the guitar on without the full history and in these cases we would provide the customer who is looking for the part exchange on such an instrument with a full assessment on why it may be a risk and the complications involved. Project Music is always happy to discuss guitars with customers who may be affected by these issues.
Further useful sites for the curious