Greenpeace is calling on the European Union to halt trade liberalisation in the forestry sector at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the light of a new, critical, EU-commissioned study [1]. The study, which will be released today, shows that further liberalisation is likely to magnify destruction of rainforests and increase illegal and unsustainable logging, particularly in the poorest countries where forest governance is weak. The study recommends a precautionary approach, and suggests various options to mitigate the impacts of liberalisation, including trade regulation.

To coincide with the study release, Greenpeace has published a report [3] that reinforces the EU impact study's findings and shows that the WTO is a threat to forest protection.

The European Commission has been in possession of its study for several months, but has yet to comment or take a clear position on the issue, which will be discussed at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong next week.

A push for unbridled liberalisation of the global timber trade at the WTO [2] would result in further, irreversible ecological damage, as well as social conflict, political instability and an increase in poverty in the Congo Basin, the Amazon and Asia. This would clash with the European Union's aim to support efforts to end forest destruction, and contribute to the global fight against poverty, biodiversity loss and climate change said Sebastien Risso of Greenpeace European Unit. Plans for liberalisation must be abandoned in light of the proven negative social and environmental impacts.

The Greenpeace report also illustrates how the WTO is used systematically to stall political action aimed at ending forest destruction. It argues that trading countries in the North and South must turn this tide and accept the primacy of international rules that aim to safeguard people and the environment over trade rules.

The global fight against poverty and biodiversity loss is hugely dependent on the EU and other wealthy regions adapting their own trade, aid and development policies said Sebastien Risso. Instead of pushing for liberalisation at any cost in the forestry sector, the EU and others should implement laws and control mechanisms to criminalise the trade in illegal timber and ensure that only legal and sustainable wood is imported into their market.

Forest-rich countries should improve forest governance and enforcement, and assess the effectiveness of laws to counter illegal and destructive forest practices, as well as corruption, bribery and money laundering, Greenpeace said.

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