World Timber Pact Meeting


World Meeting to Decide Fate of Timber Pact

Forest Networking a Project of Ecological Enterprises


Countries producing and consuming tropical timber meet this week to decide whether the controversial 1994 International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA) should be implemented. While essentially an agreement which legitimizes continued industrial exploitation of dwindling rainforests, the agreement does call for tropical timber producing countries to export wood only from sustainably managed sources by the year 2000. This weak and half hearted effort to control rainforest diminishment nonetheless sets the stage for the types of international agreements which will be necessary to rationalize the timber trade worldwide. The following is a photocopy of a Reuters news article.

Countries meeting to decide fate of timber pact
Copyright 1996 by Reuters

GENEVA, Sept 12 (Reuter) - Countries producing and consuming tropical timber will meet in Geneva on Friday to decide whether a controversial global accord reached in 1994 should go into force, United Nations officials said on Thursday.

The one-day meeting has been convened by Rubens Ricupero, secretary-general of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), at the request of the Yokohama-based International Tropical Timber Council.

An UNCTAD statement said the meeting would decide whether the long- negotiated 1994 International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA), which does not provide for direct market intervention, should be implemented definitively or only provisionally.

It was due to replace a 1983 agreement from February last year but the timing was delayed, partly because the United States, the third-largest importer of tropical timber, and Brazil, the third exporter, failed to ratify the accord.

Specialists said at the time of its approval it would be effective only if all major players were involved.

World trade in tropical timber -- logs, plywood and veneer sheets -- accounts for some $7.5 billion, about 10 per cent of all timber trade.

The 1994 accord aims to promote the expansion and diversification of international trade in these products from sustainable sources by improving structural conditions in, and access to, international markets.

Under the pact, tropical timber producers -- such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil -- pledged to try to export wood only from sustainably-managed forests by the year 2000.

Consumer nations, mainly industrialised economies, agreed they would try to do the same for their own non-tropical timber exports, but resisted efforts to extend the accord to cover temperate and boreal forests also.

At the time Brazil criticised the consumer powers for refusing to allow broadening of the pact's scope. It has a provision for review, and possible extension, four years after it goes into effect.

The pact also disappointed environmental groups, who were arguing for export limits as part of a campaign to combat deforestation and achieve forest sustainability by the end of the century.

This target was also set by the U.N.'s Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro at summit level in June 1992.

Representatives from some 50 countries which produce and consume timber and timber products are meeting in Geneva to work out recommendations on preserving the world's endangered forests that will be presented to another U.N. summit next year.

Environmental groups say they fear little concrete will emerge from that meeting, which wraps up at the end of next week, because of pressure from powerful multinational and national logging companies.

Producer countries which have formally approved the 1994 ITTA so far are Bolivia, Burma, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Gabon, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Liberia, Malaysia, Panama, Papua-New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Tailand and Togo.

Consumer states who have ratified are Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Japan, Luxemburg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

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