Forest industry urges tariff action in Hong Kong

15 Dec 2005

Representatives of the global forest industry have told Ministers in Hong Kong that freer trade in forest products would be good for business, good for development and good for the environment.

At a roundtable at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Hong Kong, industry representatives urged Ministers to take decisive action to open up international markets for wood and paper products.

Their call builds on the negotiating proposal for trade liberalization in the forest products sector submitted on 18 October by the Governments of Canada, Hong Kong China, New Zealand, Thailand and the United States.

Speaking on behalf of the New Zealand industry, Stephen Jacobi said that there is strong support for trade liberalization on the part of the industry.

“CEOs from the forest products industry from around the world, meeting in Vancouver last May, agreed on the desirability of liberalizing international trade in wood and paper products. The majority of CEOs also agreed with the proposal that there be sectoral discussions in the Doha round. We therefore urge Ministers in Hong Kong to take the steps needed to deliver a strong outcome for our sector from the Doha negotiations".

Marta Morgan, Vice President, Trade and Competitiveness at the Forest Products Association of Canada, said that the liberalization of forest products trade conformed fully to the development objectives of the Doha Development Agenda.

“All countries stand to gain significantly from freer trade in forest products. Of the world’s twenty leading exporters, twelve are developing countries. Developing countries are already increasing their exports significantly. Further trade liberalization could provide significant benefits in the form of increased trade, investment in added value production and job creation in rural communities." Speaking on behalf of the American Forest & Paper Association, Jacob Handelsman said increased trade would benefit global consumers.

“Consumers will benefit from lower costs and a greater variety of products available. In countries which rely on imports, basic development needs such as housing and education can be assisted by lowering the cost of construction. Wood is also derived from one of the world’s most sustainable and renewable materials and uses less energy in manufacturing than competing products"

Speaking on behalf of the European paper industry, Bernard Lombard agreed that trade liberalization coupled with sustainable forest management went hand in hand with environmental responsibility.

“The European paper industry, like our counterparts in other countries, promotes sustainable forest management. Trade liberalization in forest products increases the intrinsic value of forests and provides revenue so that land can be maintained in forest production. Worldwide the forest industry has developed credible management systems to assure customers that the products they sell come from well managed forests???.

At the Hong Kong roundtable industry representatives urged Ministers to seek an outcome from the Doha negotiations which includes a strong formula for the reduction of tariffs applied to forest products combined with a sectoral agreement to accelerate tariff reduction, as well as appropriate transitional arrangements and transparent flexibility mechanisms for developing countries.