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Forest Sustainability Reporting in the United States
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Indicator 6.32: Exports and imports of wood products as a share of production and consumption

An indicator for Criterion 6: Maintenance and Enhancement of Long-Term Multiple Socioeconomic Benefits To Meet the Needs of Societies

What is the indicator and why is it important?

This indicator provides information on the relative importance of international trade in wood and wood products to domestic production and consumption. This indicator is used to evaluate the role of trade in the forest sector and thereby its effect on forest sustainability across social, economic, and ecological dimensions.

What does the indicator show?

The United States has become progressively more reliant on imports to meet consumption needs. In terms of roundwood equivalents, imports of wood and paper products as a share of consumption increased from 13 to 30 percent between 1965 and 2005. During this same period there was initially a concurrent trend toward increasing exports as a share of production, which reached a high in 1991, but these exports have since declined. Exports as a share of production increased from 5 percent in 1965 to a high of 16 percent in 1991 then decreased to 10 percent in 2006 (fig. 32-1).

Figure 32-1: Graph of wood and paper products imports as a share of consumption, and exports as a share of production, 1965–2006 Figure 32-2: Graph of wood products imports as a share of consumption, 1965–2006

The sustained increase of the overall import share to the historically high level of 30 percent is due largely to growth in the softwood lumber import share, which reached a level of 38 percent in 2006. The overall import share is up from 15 percent in 1965. The import share for other products was relatively stable between 1965 and the 1990s, but has since also increased (figs. 32-2 and 32-3).

The trend in overall export share of production, an increase then a decline, is because of initial increases and subsequent declines for softwood lumber, softwood plywood, and paper and paperboard. For hardwood lumber the share has continued to increase, and for pulp the share increased then leveled off after the mid-1990s. (figs. 32-4 and 32-5).

Figure 32-3: Graph of pulp, paper, and board imports as a share of consumption, 1965–2006 Figure 32-4: Graph of wood products exports as a share of production, 1965-2006

What has changed since 2003?

The overall trends in import share (increasing) and export share (decreasing) that appeared before 2003 have continued through 2006.

Are there important regional differences?

Data are not available for interstate imports and exports for U.S. regions, so import and export shares cannot be provided by U.S. regions. It is possible, however, to roughly estimate which regions are net importers of wood and paper products, in roundwood equivalent, if we assume that consumption per capita is uniform across regions. In terms of roundwood equivalent, of the four Resource Planning Act (RPA) Regions, only the U.S. South is a net exporter of wood and paper products (fig. 32-6).

Figure 32-5: Graph of paper and paperboard, and pulp exports as a share of production, 1965–2006 Figure 32-6: Chart of wood and paper products consumption and production by region in roundwood equivalents, 2006

Why can’t the entire indicator be reported at this time?

It is not clear if data on value of wood and paper industry shipments covers the same range of products as the value of wood and paper imports and exports, so import and export shares on a value basis have not been provided.

Relation to other indicators

The level and trend in wood and paper export share of con- sumption are a key factor in sustaining certain benefits from forests—benefits of employment and wages (Indicators 6.36 and 6.37), benefits in revenue to various groups (Indicator 6.40), and contribution to community resiliency (Indicator 6.38). Level and trend in import share of production also has an influence on the same indicators but in a direction opposite from export share. For example—for a given level on wood products consumption in the United States increased export share would increase employment and wages and increase import share would decrease employment and wages. The level of export and import shares are determined by the competitiveness of U.S. industries in relation to foreign industries which, in turn, is influenced—in the long run—by the level capital investment in new technology (Indicator 6.34), by levels of research and education in the United States (Indicator 6.35), and by the productivity of U.S. forests (Indicator 6.11).

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