Discrepancies in trade statistics can be normal or benign and attributed to a wide variety of unintentional factors, or in some instances within the timber products sector, such discrepancies can be associated with “systemic” factors that distort trade statistics, including (i) measurement and shipment issues, (ii) misreporting of product volumes, (iii) misclassification of timber product types, and (iv) government regulations concerned about trade. This study measured trade discrepancies in logs and lumber trade statistics for China and its trading partner countries from 2002 to 2018 using a time-lagged function, based on the customs data available from Global Trade Information Services (GTIS), with the aim of exploring a more nuanced understanding of trade discrepancies and their “systemic” factors. The results showed that the range of overall discrepancies in logs and lumber trade statistics shrunk over time, from [−0.069, 1.207] in 2002–2007 to [−0.120, 0.408] in 2013–2018. The larger trade flows of logs and lumber from Russia, New Zealand, and the U.S. (each above 10% of total China’s import) showed small trade statistics discrepancy ratios, which were less than ± 0.06. However, trade discrepancies still remained large at the disaggregated level, and significant differences of trade discrepancies between tropical and non-tropical countries. The range of trade discrepancies in hardwood logs increased from 2002 to 2018 and appeared to be attributed to misclassification and misreporting in tropical countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Ghana. However, these countries’ trade flows are becoming relatively minor over time. Government policies are suggested to play an important role in influencing both the occurrence and resolution of trade discrepancies.
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