CITES Restrictions on Musical Instruments Are Coming to an End

Update: On Wednesday 08/28/19, the CITES convention in Geneva, Switzerland decided to exempt finished musical instruments, parts, and accessories from CITES restrictions on all rosewood species except Brazilian rosewood (whose protections predate the other rosewood species and remain in place).

According to NAMM, the exemption for musical instruments will take effect in late November 2019. Until that time, all restrictions remain. Check back soon for more details.

As many Reverb sellers and buyers will know, CITES restrictions on the international trade of rosewood have made the sale of (and sometimes merely the travel with) musical instruments a painful process.

A coalition of musical instrument manufacturers and other gear industry actors has, since at least 2016, argued that instruments should be exempt from CITES restrictions. Today, NPR is reporting that this group has convinced a key committee at an ongoing CITES meeting in Geneva, Switzerland—meaning that the restrictions on the international trade of rosewood and a few other tonewoods in musical instruments may soon be over.

NPR reports that one more vote is necessary before the exemption is official, but that the measure is expected to pass. What exactly this means for the difficult-to-navigate CITES compliance process and paperwork remains to be seen. Whether gear makers that have increasingly used woods like pau ferro on fretboards will return to the traditional rosewood is also an open question.

When implemented in 2017, the regulations that arose from the Conference on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) sought to reduce the amount of endangered rosewood, bubinga, and some other tonewoods that are used for manufacturing all kinds of products around the world.

The basic argument made by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) and others is that the amount of rosewood used for making musical instruments pales in comparison to the amount used to make furniture and creates undue burdens for instrument manufacturers and buyers.

Read NPR's full report here. For more background on CITES, read our previous explainer here.

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