16 Jun 2006

Group claims free trade deals hasten forest destruction

12:52 pm on 16 June 2006

A new report released by the Environmental Investigation Agency says US Free Trade agreements are accelerating the destruction of tropical forests in places like Indonesia's Papua province.

The EIA is urging the US administration and congress to enact a law prohibiting illegal timber imports into the US before signing pending free trade agreements with other timber trading nations.

Last year, the EIA exposed an illegal timber smuggling operation from Papua to China by Malaysian nationals worth a billion US dollars per year.

The EIA's Alexander von Bismarck says subsequently there was an initial crackdown on illegal logging of Papua merbau by authorities in Indonesia's central government.

"Since then the price has doubled and we have kept a close eye on whether the right people are being prosecuted. And that's the tough part of it - that you have the timber barons, whether they're from China, Malaysia or Singapore, that are really above the law in the true sense of the word. And that's what's going to keep this problem alive unless we really close the markets in our own countries, which is really driving the problem."

Alexander von Bismarck of the EIA