A return for rosewood? CITES lifts restrictions on musical instruments
Since 2017, the CITES treaty has become one of the largest bugbears for the guitar industry, as it has made the transportation of musical instruments internationally more expensive and time consuming for manufacturers, distributors and retailers of all sizes. Now, that seems likely to change.
According to an NPR report, a key committee at the international endangered species convention meeting in Geneva approved motion that will enable finished musical instruments that contain rosewood from CITES restrictions on Monday.
The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna) Appendix II restrictions were never intended to impact the music industry as it has. The original purpose was to protect rosewood (as well as bubinga and kosso) from overuse by the furniture industry, but their conservation goals had unintended consequences.
Upon its implementation, many guitar makers big and small were caught out, without the required paperwork to import rosewood internationally, guitars languished in ports waiting for clearances, costing the industry millions in delays and permits, leaving retailers and distributors without guitars to sell.
In the two years since, the guitar industry has been forced to adapt to the new reality, with individuals and smaller brands struggling to absorb the extra costs when it comes to buying and selling internationally.
Even bigger brands have been forced into action, and in some cases have responded by ditching rosewood from low- and mid-priced altogether – most notably Fender, who swapped all its Mexican-made guitars from rosewood to pau ferro fingerboards.
Musical instruments make up a tiny percentage of the world’s rosewood use, and as such ever since the MI industry has been fighting to gain an exemption from CITES, claiming in their petition to the committee that, “the world of music and culture will lose certain instruments that produce the highest quality tones, with no corresponding conservation benefit.”
Now it appears that they have won their fight, and provided the committee’s recommendation is finalised as expected later this week, it should dramatically simplify the international transport of guitars that contain rosewood.
What impact this will have on the guitar industry’s use of rosewood remains to be seen – it’s worth noting that this exemption only applies to finished musical instruments, not raw materials or individual components.
But it’s not unreasonable to assume that over the next 12 months we could see a return of rosewood to lower end guitars, and it should remove many headaches for small makers and retailers who want to ship rosewood-sporting guitars internationally.
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