APEC agrees to isolate the US, Australia over forestry trade bans
Anggi M. Lubis
The Jakarta Post
Forestry ministers of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries have agreed to isolate the United States and Australia for using trade bans to tackle illegal logging through a 'non-binding' accord.
The ministers argued that the bans contravened the United Nations' principles on promotingsustainable forest management in developing countries and World Trade Organization (WTO) anti-protectionism measures.
'A meeting of forestry ministers who are members of APEC has effectively isolated Australia and the US for legislating import bans on illegal timber products,' said Alan Oxley, chairman of free market NGO World Growth, commenting on the result of an APEC's Forestry Ministerial Meeting, which concluded last Friday in Peru.
Oxley said in a release made available to The Jakarta Post by the Forestry Ministry on Sunday that research by World Growth showed none of the standard claims about the extent of illegal logging were independently verifiable and most were based on biased claims by anti-forestry NGOs, particularly Greenpeace and World Wide Fund (WWF).
The US introduced the amended US Lacey Act in 2008, a provision that regulates the import and export of wood products to and from the US. Any US citizen importing or exporting illegally harvested plants or products to and from the US may be prosecuted under the Lacey Act.
Australia has put in place a similar regulation since November, which makes it a criminal offense in Australia to import timber and timber products containing illegally sourced timber or process Australian raw logs that have been illegally logged.
The two APEC countries are not the only ones using such an approach to battle illegal logging and log trading around the world, with the European Union (EU) Timber Regulation coming into effect in March.
Oxley said research showed that most illegal logging was due to poor land clearing for housing, firewood and food production.
He pointed out the standard solution to illegal logging was to raise living standards and not by halting forestry activities, and claimed that the APEC meeting showed the dominant opinion among Asia-Pacific nations.
Forestry Ministry secretary general Hadi Daryanto, who attended the meeting, said on Sunday that the 'non-binding' accord was made after allegations from NGOs that the regulations imposed by the US and Australia served more as non-tariff trade barriers to curb cheap, flourishing exports from developing countries penetrating their markets, and therefore violating WTO's anti-protectionism measures.
Hadi said Indonesia would respect the accord, but would not stop trading forestry produce with Australia and the US, the latter of which is Indonesia's third biggest wood importers.
He said the timber trade regulations were indeed a good move to restrain illegal logging and illegal log trading that went unchecked worldwide, and Indonesia would gladly support the regulations to combat such illicit activities.
'Developed countries like the US have a vital lobbying power to deter countries globally from illegally harvesting timber and trading them and that is why we can't simply impede trade with it,' Hadi told the Post.
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