I’m proud to follow in the footsteps of André de Boer as secretary-general of the European Timber Trade Federation (ETTF), although it won’t be easy to fi ll his shoes. Together with president Andreas von Möller, he developed the ETTF into an effective organisation with a very strong reputation in Brussels and an excellent network, making it easier for the European timber trade to stay in touch with stakeholders worldwide.

The ETTF also played a key role in the introduction of the EUTR. It enabled the sector to speak with one voice and supported the trade through the implementation process.

Critically, it provides a platform for members to exchange information and opinions. Central in this respect has been the ETTF’s role as co-organiser with the European Organisation of Sawmill Industries of the International Softwood and International Hardwood conferences, which this year take place respectively in Antwerp, from October 16-19, and Berlin, from November 21-22. These are dynamic platforms for trade communication, providing insights into market trends in a globalised industry and acting as an international networking hub.

So the ETTF has solid foundations. But we must continue to build on them.

We must keep growing and developing our conferences, to ensure their ongoing relevance to the modern market.

We must also underline the wider worth of timber and the timber sector, working with wood supporting initiatives across Europe and learning from the experience of other industries.

Our industry is a major contributor to European GDP, and that’s something we really must stress as it’s not as widely recognised as it should be.

As the only construction and manufacturing material that is sustainable and stores CO2, and with our increasingly urgent need to move to a low-carbon, sustainable bioeconomy globally, timber has huge opportunities. Awareness of its value as a renewable resource and its carbon benefits is growing, but we must co-operate industry-wide to promote these attributes even more strongly. We must also ensure supply meets increasing consumption.

It’s also crucial for us to continue to represent the interests of the timber trade to government in development of regulations and standards. One important focus remains achieving uniform implementation of the EUTR across the EU. And we need to stand up for smaller businesses, which find the increasing volume of regulation a real administrative burden.

The ETTF is focused too on strengthening its membership and representing more countries. Currently we have no relationships with eastern European organisations. We’re keen to develop them.

We have also joined the new trade working group within the European Woodworking Industries Confederation, CEI-Bois, supporting its ambitious advocacy plan to ensure timber tops the decisionmaking agenda.

The timber sector across Europe, including the UK, whatever the outcome of Brexit, faces a lot of issues in a fast-changing world. We regret that the UK TTF decided to leave the ETTF, the European body representing the trade. But, regardless, we all need to work together to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities facing our sector. The ETTF is committed to playing its part.