Although the US has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), 11 countries still signed the strongly contested trade agreement in the beginning of March 2018. The now called Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP) still contains the most important TTP agreements, however including changes, which are visible in the fine print and could have a serious impact on the fight against illegal logging.
The US had always been active in combating illegal logging, for example with the Lacey Act, or more specifically its expansion in 2008. The initial anti-wildlife trafficking rule now also included timber. This actually set a milestone with prohibiting the possession or trade of illegally sourced timber – according to the laws in the country of origin. Next to making a statement, that the legal status of logging matters, this inspired various similar laws for example across Europe and in Australia.
So, when it came to negotiating the terms under TTP in 2010, the U.S. rooted for the agreement to reflect the language and the intention of the Lacey Act, to be clear and firm about restricting illegal logging and legal jurisdiction in the country of origin. This is exemplified in the following agreement paragraph:
In a further effort to address the illegal take of, and illegal trade in, wild fauna and flora, including parts and products thereof, each Party shall take measures to combat, and cooperate to prevent, the trade of wild fauna and flora that, based on credible evidence, were taken or traded in violation of that Party’s law or another applicable law, the primary purpose of which is to conserve, protect, or manage wild fauna or flora.” Footnote: For greater certainty, “another applicable law”, means a law of the jurisdiction where the take or trade occurred and is only relevant to the question of whether the wild fauna and flora has been taken or traded in violation of that law.
Several countries were against integrating the U.S. approach in the first place, which resulted in the footnote being deleted after the U.S. decided not to take part in the agreement.
Consequently this means, that timber importing countries are only bound to follow and oblige to their importing paper work procedures instead of following legal requirements in the exporting countries, where it is often needed most.
This is definitely a major obstacle in the global effort to pay more attention to and to increase the fight against illegal logging.
Check out Chip Barber on the World Resource Institute’s Blog for a more detailed statement.