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Forest Sustainability Reporting in the United States
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Indicator 7.56: Nondiscriminatory trade policies for forest products

An indicator for Criterion 7: Legal, Institutional, and Economic Framework for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Management

What is the indicator and why is it important?

This indicator provides information about U.S. trade policies and how they may affect markets in ways that can affect sustainable forest management. If trade policies, such as import or export quotas, mask market signals that affect domestic timber harvest, these policies may adversely affect economic, social, or environmental components of sustainable forest management.

What does the indicator show?

Trade policies are obviously the purview of the Federal Government, both as logic dictates and as stated explicitly in the U.S. Constitution. Many national and international laws, rules, regulations, and international agreements address trade in forest products, protection of endangered species and important natural habitats, and potential discrimination. The United States is a net forest products importer, but also exports considerable amount of wood as well. The United States imports mostly sawn wood and panels, and exports pulp, paper, and roundwood, but exports much less than it imports on a volume basis.

Trade from Canada and the United States has been contentious. The United States imported about 39 percent of its sawn wood consumption and 28 percent of its panel consumption in 2004, with almost 90 percent of this coming from Canada. U.S. trade is governed partially by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), by some accords under the World Trade Organization (WTO), and by agreements stemming from General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). The legal Canadian-U.S. lumber dispute reached a fragile resolution in 2006, and remains in force, but with continuing issues.

The United States also participates in international agreements that have environmental and social objectives. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) protects endangered fauna and flora; Ramsar protects endangered wetlands; the North American Migratory Bird Treaty acts to protect those bird species whose migration routes include North America; and NAFTA and Central American Free Trade Agreements (CAFTA) include environmental protection and worker protection standards. Private sector forest products firms and forest landowners generally operate completely within these laws, rules, regulations, and international agreements.

Table 56-1: Policy and Governance Classification

What has changed since 2003?

The U.S. Lacey Act of 1900 forbade import of foreign animal or interstate commerce in illegally taken wild animals or birds. The Lacey Act was extended in the 2008 Farm Bill to combat imports of illegal flora from other countries. This act was enacted as a means to control illegal logging and is being implemented with detailed regulations, as of 2009.

Concerns with nontrade barriers such as phytosanitary standards and how illegal logging strictures under the 2008 Lacey Act Amendments still require temperate policy responses and monitoring to ensure that fair trade continues. The WTO, for instance promotes free trade, and adjudicates disputes among countries, but recognizes that each case must be considered carefully.

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Criterion 7 Indicators