America’s Free Trade for Illegal Timber

How US Trade Pacts Speed the Destruction
of the World’s Forests

America’s Free Trade for Illegal TimberAs this report is published, the US is cementing economic partnerships which could further speed the destruction of Southeast Asian and Latin American forests. The list of looming US Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) reads like a who’s who of states involved in the global illegal logging epidemic: Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Peru and Central America.

The pending trade pacts are to be modeled on the first US free trade agreement with an Asian nation, signed with Singapore in May 2003. Hailed by both governments for its environmental provisions, the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USSFTA) has, in practice, fuelled tropical deforestation and the illegal timber trade in Southeast Asia. The US is the world’s largest wood products consumer while Singapore is a major hub of the region’s timber export market. After two years of increased trade between the two countries under the USSFTA, US imports of wood products from Singapore are projected to be nearly three-times their pre-USSFTA levels in 2006, and shipments via Singapore of Indonesian timber known to be of illegal origin have increased by 62%. In the meantime, the USSFTA’s environmental safeguards have gone unimplemented.

Currently, the US has no provisions in place to prohibit the import of illegally logged timber. The intended new partners, such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Peru, are already major sources of illegal timber entering the US, and Singapore remains a major hub for illegal timber trade. Signing these new agreements before the US takes action to prohibit imports of illegally produced wood will entrench and increase the US consumer as the main driver in the illegal logging epidemic around the world.

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