US aims to jeopardise legal action on illegal logging

Confidential document outlines US plan to block illegal logging initiatives

Press release - 16 March, 2005
The United States was exposed yesterday as planning to jeopardise multi-lateral action to stop the trade in products from illegally logged timber , less than 48 hours prior to the first ever joint meeting of G8 Environment and Development ministers.(1)

Action on illegal logging has been one of the centrepiece environmental priorities of the UK government in the lead-up to the meeting of G8 leaders at Gleneagles in July. Measures proposed by the UK are currently under discussion at the EU level, and include legislative action to prevent imports of illegal timber; the use of government procurement policies to tackle illegal logging; and support for governance reform in timber producing countries. (2)

Documents revealed on BBC Newsnight last night, and obtained by Greenpeace, show that these measures are at risk from the US administration, who will oppose tangible measures to stop the flow of illegal logging. (3)

The confidential document from March 2005, states:

* US objectives are to "avoid commitments to ineffective or unworkable actions, especially on the demand side."

* US strategy towards Europe is stated as:"(the) US will work with Canada to hold back procurement and other unacceptable demand-side actions, and with Russia and Japan to dissuade them from supporting the UK."

* "The 3 proposed UK headlines should be deleted...Demand side actions involving new import or procurement regulations/restrictions are unacceptable and should not be high-lighted."

"What the US is doing is a slap in the face of the European Union. Rather than upholding the sanctity of free trade, George Bush should stop helping corrupt timber barons, politicians and logging companies destroy the world's remaining ancient forests," said Pat Venditti, Greenpeace UK Forest Campaigner. "The US should join the UK and EU by showing the political will to develop procurement and legislative measures to address illegal and unsustainable logging."

At the 1998 G8 ministerial in Birmingham in 1998, G8 governments adopted an 'Action Programme on Forests' which included commitments to address the growth in the illegal trade. Seven years on, not one G8 member state has adopted legislation that would prohibit imports of illegally logged timber products.

In 2003, the US announced the President's Initiative Against Illegal Logging promising to 'fight corruption in the forest sector', and to 'protect forests and the livelihoods that depend upon them.' Despite the US being a major importer of illegally logged timber products, minimal effort has been made to prevent such products going into the country.

Notes: 1- G8 Environment and Development Ministers will be meeting at the Breadsall Priory, Derbyshire on March 17th and 18th to discuss illegal logging, climate change and Africa. The European Union will be represented as observers at the meeting by the Luxembourg Minister for the Environment and the European Commissioners for Environment and Development. 2- More information on proposed actions on illegal logging can be found at www.illegal-logging.info3- Document is available as PDF from Greenpeace.