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Tree trade

Liberalization of international commerce in forest products: Risks and opportunities

Trade liberalization that threatens forests should not go forward until mechanisms are in place to ensure parallel progress on forest protection. The authors highlight recommendations which make both economic and environmental sense.

Executive Summary

In light of the important issues that trade and forests entail, this report analyzes the risks and opportunities associated with proposed liberalization of international commerce in forest products.

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p>The authors note that unless countries that export forest products improve forest protection policies, laws, and practices, further trade liberalization poses a significant threat to efforts to conserve and sustainably manage forests.

The acceleration of tariff elimination -- the current proposal under discussion for forest products at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Summit -- is unlikely to have a large impact on net global trade because most tariffs are already quite low. But eliminating tariffs could have a significant impact on some products and some markets.

Removal of some non-tariff barriers could have far greater negative consequences. There are major concerns about weakening phytosanitary standards, threats to efforts to label forest products, and proposals to outlaw unilateral measures that some local and national governments have taken to reduce the negative environmental and social impacts on forests of consumption of forest products within their territories.

The authors recommend that trade liberalization that could threaten forests or interfere with their protection should not go forward until mechanisms are put in place to ensure parallel progress on forest protection.

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