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NZ seeks timber products trade liberalisation

15 Dec 2005

New Zealand and Canada today hosted a seminar to promote liberalised trade in forest products at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong.

Ministers, senior officials and industry representatives from 10 developing and developed countries met to discuss their interest freer trade in forest products.

Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton stressed that "freer trade in forest products will provide increased business opportunities, and foster economic development, especially for developing countries."

Attendance by a range of developing countries illustrated the increasing importance to them of trade in this sector.

Industry representatives urged decisive action to open up international markets for wood and paper products, saying that freer trade in forest products was good for business, good for development, and good for the environment.

The global forest products industry is one of the world's largest industrial sectors employing more than 13 million people in nearly 200 nations. Tariff and non-tariff barriers act as a significant obstacle to trade in this sector.

Discussions aimed at ensuring the Doha Development Agenda delivers meaningful market access improvements for the sector have been attracting increasing interest. Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Thailand, and the United States have also submitted a negotiating proposal to reduce tariffs in the sector.

Today's meeting in Hong Kong advanced the dialogue between industry and interested WTO members.

Industry emphasised the need for a strong tariff cutting formula for non-agricultural goods including forestry that would produce real market access opportunities. Even further liberalisation could be achieved through a sectoral initiative providing for additional cuts to tariffs on forest products by key importing and exporting countries.

Industy also outlined their commitment to sustainable forest management as a means of ensuring environmental responsibility.

Discussion between ministers, senior officials, and industry focussed on the ways and means of achieving the goal of maximising liberalisation for forest products, including the need for a strong formula supplemented by sectoral liberalisation for forest products. They also discussed ways of ensuring special and differential treatment for developing countries and managing this in a transparent and predictable manner.