How Green Protectionism Harms Sustainable Forestry, the Environment and the World's Poor

June 25, 2013

Under the guise of protecting the world's forests from unsustainable logging practices, proponents of protectionist trade policies have successfully lobbied for so-called "green" measures. Environmental trade regulations ban the importation of natural resources from developing countries unless they meet standards imposed by developed countries, says Marcelo Ostria, a research associate at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

European Union (EU) efforts to reduce forestry product imports from outside timber-producing countries began in 2003 with the implementation of the EU's Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. The plan required Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) between developing countries and the EU to ensure a mutual commitment to purchasing only "legally harvested timber," a term that has still not been properly defined.

  • However, experts from EU member states, members of the FLEGT Committee and industry stakeholders have admitted that the EU Timber Regulation needs further clarification.
  • In fact, there is no widely accepted methodology to measure illegal logging, there is no reliable data available, and there is no established international definition of illegal logging.

Trade restrictions, such as those imposed by the FLEGT Action Plan and Voluntary Partnership Agreements, have had a negative impact on developing economies.

The United States has also implemented forestry protectionist measures under a green guise.

  • Amendments to the Lacey Act (originally written to prohibit interstate and international trade in illegally captured wildlife) were extended in 2008 to cover protected plant species, including trees.
  • The Lacey Act amendments expose third parties (without control over or even knowledge of foreign practices) to possible seizure of goods.

Under the pretext of safeguarding the environment, green protectionism benefits domestic suppliers while inhibiting developing countries from efficiently exploiting their natural resources. These protectionist measures conflict with World Trade Organization rules that forbid discrimination against foreign trade products, and they also undermine sustainable forestry development and management in developing economies.

Source: Marcelo Ostria, "How Green Protectionism Harms Sustainable Forestry, the Environment and the World's Poor," National Center for Policy Analysis, June 25, 2013.

 

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